People are starting to wake up to the fact that as Facebook made changes to monetize social interactions, they have royally screwed up and instead incentivized lies. The NY Times reports on the fake news sites that have been blossoming all over the place. It’s crystal clear what drives them: money.
Jobless and with graduation looming, a computer science student at the premier university in the nation of Georgia decided early this year that money could be made from America’s voracious appetite for passionately partisan political news. He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar.
“I don’t know why, but it did not work,” said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real — and completely fake — news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor.
More than 6,000 miles away in Vancouver, a Canadian who runs a satirical website, John Egan, had made a similar observation. Mr. Egan’s site, The Burrard Street Journal, offers sendups of the news, not fake news, and he is not trying to fool anyone. But he, too, discovered that writing about Mr. Trump was a “gold mine.” His traffic soared and his work, notably a story that President Obama would move to Canada if Mr. Trump won, was plundered by Mr. Latsabidze and other internet entrepreneurs for their own websites.
“It’s all Trump,” Mr. Egan said by telephone. “People go nuts for it.”
These guys have discovered that peddling bullshit to the gullible is profitable. There are no checks on them at all; in particular, they seem to be completely unhindered by scruples. We have a name for such people: con artists.
NPR also has a story on fake news sites. This phony is painfully disingenuous.
And as the stories spread, Coler makes money from the ads on his websites. He wouldn’t give exact figures, but he says stories about other fake-news proprietors making between $10,000 and $30,000 a month apply to him. Coler fits into a pattern of other faux news sites that make good money, especially by targeting Trump supporters.
However, Coler insists this is not about money. It’s about showing how easily fake news spreads. And fake news spread wide and far before the election. When I pointed out to Coler that the money gave him a lot of incentive to keep doing it regardless of the impact, he admitted that was “correct.”
Oh, he’s so altruistic — he’s just trying to do good and expose the fake news industry, while profiting mightily from it and not doing a goddamn thing to expose it at all. He did nothing to point out the fraudulence of his stories or to reveal the extent of their spread, waiting instead for a conventional news source to call attention to what he’d been doing.
Another thing in that NYT story, another false excuse I’ve lost patience for. It’s “satire”.
“I don’t call it fake news; I call it satire,” he said. He avoids sex and violence because they violate Facebook rules, he said, but he sees nothing wrong otherwise with providing readers with what they want.
NO IT’S NOT. Here’s a basic dictionary definition of satire.
the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Note the key phrase up there: you’re supposed to use it to “expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices”. Cheerleading for the alt-right or Donald Trump doesn’t count; like that Coler asshole, it only counts as satire if you’re using it to rebuke ideas you find disagreeable. They aren’t. They’re using lies to promote views they agree with or find profitable.
And how can lies be profitable? Blame Facebook. Here’s the story of a fellow who got banned from Facebook for criticizing the alt-right.
As I noted the last time this happened, unfortunately this is the risk you take when you sign on to Facebook and other social media sites. You don’t control the platform. Hell, you can’t even talk to the those who run the platform. And the size of it makes any attempt at real-time moderation by the platform managers a complete joke. Neither Facebook nor Twitter has made any real effort to prevent harassment, bullying, or any of the other more unfortunate aspects of social media. And Facebook has made no effort whatsoever to prevent abuse of their system and they’ve made it impossible for the victims to do anything about it. They are in fact complicit and they are very likely to become more so in the future.
My ban from the platform is the result of Facebook’s lousy architecture, which lets bullies and harassers abuse Facebook’s automated system – a system that was supposedly put in place to make Facebook safer – and I have absolutely no recourse for protest or appeal.
Let’s be honest here. Facebook and Twitter have no motivation to clean up their act: that they are paying out ad revenue to neo-Nazi propaganda is a consequence of the fact that that crap is popular. Rejecting bullying or fascism does not make them money, while providing an outlet for them does.
And now I’m torn. I feel like I should shut down my facebook account, but a) I use it for the good stuff it provides as a social medium to keep in touch with my scattered family, and b) if all the liberals leave, it will become an even worse playground for trolls and scum. What are you all going to do?