Facebook Business Model Incompatible with Fixing Its Fake News Problem

Nice article about how Facebook’s business model is at odds with any inclinations it might have to clean up fake news.

How Teachers Can Help Students Learn How to Handle Fake News

In this article in the Washington Post, teachers play the heroes in helping our kids learn to tell fake news from real news.

As an expert on learning, let me suggest the following approaches for teachers:

    1. Don’t preach about the dangers of fake news.
      That may be our natural inclination, but most learners hate this.
    2. Gather examples from all sides of the political spectrum.
      Because you’ll be more persuasive and because fake news is not partisan.
    3. Give your students examples of real news stories and fake news stories
      Use half fake, half real stories. Or maybe up to 75% fake news stories.
      Have your students, working on their own at first, sort them into real and fake.
      After they’ve done it as individuals, have your students discuss their findings in small groups.
      Reveal the results to them. Tell them which are real and which are fake.
      Have them discuss in different small groups (they can stand anywhere in their new groups).
      Have them ask themselves to come up with a list of the reasons they got fooled.
      Have them come up with a list of things to watch out for when they see news headlines.
    4. Give them homework to use their list to find both fake and real stories online.
      Back in the classroom, ask them to improve their list in their small groups.
    5. Ask your students to consider how misinformation might affect a debate.
      Have them quickly debate an issue using only real facts. See if they can work out a compromise.
      Then, do the same, but have them use both real facts and made-up facts to win their argument.
      See what happens and have them reflect on the result, first as individuals, then in groups.
      Point out that debates are how democracy is supposed to work.
      Ask them what they think will happen when politicians lie or citizens rely on fake news.
    6. Play a game. Give homework to find a fake news story they think will fool most of their fellow classmates.
      Also ask them to find a real news story they think will be seen as fake by most of their classmates.
      Back in classroom, in random order, provide the real and fake stories to everyone. Take a vote.
      After all the articles have been voted on, get them back in their groups to discuss their reflections.
    7. A week or so later, give them more practice distinguishing between fake and real stories.
      Because one key goal is to help them distinguish between real and fake, give them lots of practice in this.
    8. A week or so later, play another game. Have them create their own fake news story.
      Get them each to collect one new real story as well.
      Back in the classroom, have them vote real or fake, give them kudos for fooling their classmates.
    9. Ask them to each individually write a letter to send to anyone they want to about fake news.
      Their goal is to help the other person be motivated and able to distinguish between fake and real news.

Okay, that’s enough ideas. Those of you who are teachers will know how to improve and expand on this list.

Indeed, it would be great if teachers could develop a free repository of fake and real news stories, lesson plans, etc. If you know of one, leave a comment.

It would also be great if teachers could partner with app developers to create games that would have students (and adults) be able to practice distinguishing between real and fake news stories.

Here are some of the learning principles embedded in the recommendations above:

  1. Don’t preach — nobody likes to be preached at.
  2. Give repeated practice, spread over time, of the real-world behavior you hope to enable.
  3. Have learners engage in thinking on their own, not just in groups.
  4. After engaging on their own, encourage group discussions or project work to enrich and reinforce.
  5. Give learners multiple ways to practice and think about the issues.
  6. Make the work-of-learning as real-world as possible.
  7. Ask big questions — questions of personal relevance, of import, of personal responsibility.
  8. Ask learners to communicate, persuade, or enable others; where possible to reinforce the learning and it’s real-world importance.
  9. Spread the learning over time, and where possible, enable the learning to integrate into the person’s out-of-school life.

Finder’s Guide to Facts — How to Tell if You’re Reading Fake News

Steve Inskeep, veteran NPR reporter, provides a nice guide to help us tell true stories from fake ones.

Fact Checkers Hoping that Facebook can Save the News

This article on Politico by Nancy Scola, describes ideas from fact checkers about how Facebook and other social-media companies can help diminish fake news.

NY Times takes on Truth and Lies in the Age of Trump

The New York Times has published an editorial mourning the loss of reality-based political discourse. In this major statement from the grand old lady, they argue that Americans are simply less interested in truth and more interested in following a story line. Trump, they say, has brilliantly jumped into this post-truth environment to manipulate a large horde of us Americans. They further argue that such dishonesty is damaging our democracy.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Donald Trump understood at least one thing better than almost everybody watching the 2016 election: The breakdown of a shared public reality built upon widely accepted facts represented not a hazard, but an opportunity.

The institutions that once generated and reaffirmed that shared reality — including the church, the government, the news media, the universities and labor unions — are in various stages of turmoil or even collapse. Because Mr. Trump himself has little regard for facts, it was easy for him to capitalize on this situation. But even as Americans gobble up “fake news,” there is the sense that something crucial has been lost.

That’s what Mr. Trump has done. For him, facts aren’t the point; trust is. Like any autocrat, he wins his followers’ trust — let’s call it a blind trust — by lying so often and so brazenly that millions of people give up on trying to distinguish truth from falsehood.

Mr. Trump has changed this game. He has exploited, perhaps better than any presidential candidate before him, the human impulse to be swayed more by story than by fact. As one of his surrogates said recently, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, of facts.”

Without a Walter Cronkite to guide them, how can Americans find the path back to a culture of commonly accepted facts, the building blocks of democracy? A president and other politicians who care about the truth could certainly help them along. In the absence of leaders like that, media organizations that report fact without regard for partisanship, and citizens who think for themselves, will need to light the way.

The last paragraph worries me. It argues that our post-truth world can be fixed by media organizations and citizens on their own. This is wishful thinking at best. We need much more than this. We need a concerted effort, drawing on a wide range of people and institutions, to make truth a virtue again… That is why Truth For Democracy, a yet-to-be-born nonprofit organization is needed. You may sign up here.

Clinton Campaign Utilized Fake News Too!

Glenn Greenwald, the guy who ushered Edward Snowden’s revelations into the world, writes how the Clinton campaign — despite Hillary Clinton’s recent complaints about fake news — actually used fake-news methods itself in trying to discredit Wikileak’s documents on Clinton’s email fiasco.

Facebook COO still Claims Fake News did NOT impact Election

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, claims in interview on NBC’s Today Show that Fake News did NOT influence the U.S. Presidential Election.

I found her response sickening — just PR spin…

Yo Facebook! Be real first, so we know you really care!

Dean Pomerleau is Gathering Geeks to Crush Fake News

Dean Pomerleau (on twitter at @DeanPomerleau) has issued the #FakeNewsChallenge to bring together Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise to solve or at least lessen the fake news problem.

You can sign up to join the fake news challenge at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJAMXy_iOXnfh-m6jbsbRAm0xwFUlQRD5VWLyuExq2rD0GmQ/viewform.

You can see the Fake News Challenge website at: http://www.fakenewschallenge.org/

The National Review Opines Against Fake News — But Throws Hands Up

The National Review, the stalwart conservative periodical founded by William Buckley, has written a piece warning about the dangers of fake news.

I am relieved, I must say, to hear that folks on the right are just as alarmed. While the first screaming proselytizers came from the left, it is a hopeful sign that maybe we Americans can come together to make truth a virtue again.

Here’s a few quotes from the article by Jim Geraghty, National Review’s senior political correspondent:

Yes, the new rash of fabricated stories is awful, toxic to public discussion, and worthy of rebuke, just as the stories pushed by Rather and Williams and Rolling Stone were. But those now proclaiming a “fake-news crisis” are long on furious denunciation and short on anything resembling a plan or a proposal to deal with it.

No amount of effort to debunk fake stories is going to dissuade people with this mentality. Nor is an official disavowal. Reliable news organizations and political figures can denounce “fake news” until the cows come home, but it isn’t likely to change the thinking of those who consume it.

“Fake news” is terrible. But not everything in life that is terrible can or should be snuffed out. Sometimes, the proposed remedy is worse than the disease.
I guess the last sentence quoted gives me less hope, as Geraghty seems to maybe be playing a game with us — playing to mainstream Americans by saying that fake news is bad, while playing to the conservative base with a wink and a nod by saying that it’s okay that fake news proliferates. Have some guts Geraghty! Would you like to get rid of fake news or not?

Some Optimism Please!

While it’s true that fact checking failed totally in the election, and no amount of technological wizardry by social media companies will annihilate fake news; we shouldn’t be so simply-minded to think there are no long term solutions.
The new nonprofit organization I am working to give birth to, Truth For Democracy, will be designed from the ground up to fight this intractable problem. By working at the intersection of science, technology, education, and behavioral economics, Truth For Democracy will sponsor innovations and science to wage an all-out war against disinformation, while simultaneously working “to make truth a virtue again in our American public and political conversations.”

Pope Calls Fake News a Sin

The Pope has labeled fake news a sin, saying that spreading “disinformation is  probably the greatest damage that the media can do.”

Huffington Post headline: Pope Warns Media Over ‘Sin’ Of Spreading Fake News, Smearing Politician