Facebook has announced plans to rank the visibility of news sources based on whether they are “broadly trusted.” The mainstream media is reporting this as a win for users, and an abdication of responsibility on Facebook’s part. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If Facebook really wanted to let users determine what news sources they trust, they already have a perfectly functioning system for doing that. It’s called “likes.” If the platform were truly giving power back to the users, they would let them see news from sources that they choose, via the liking system.
Instead, Facebook is going to rank and de-rank news sites based on complicated user surveys aimed at discovering “broadly trusted” sources. Here’s how Mark Zuckerberg explained it:
We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.
Here’s how this will work. As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly. (We eliminate from the sample those who aren’t familiar with a source, so the output is a ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it.)
Of course, if Zuckerberg really wanted to let “the community determine” what news sources they want to read, their “like” system already serves as a daily multi-billion user survey. What Facebook is subtly telling users is, they don’t care what you like.
In his announcement, Zuckerberg was transparent about his objectives. He wants to socially engineer his users away from “polarization” and “misinformation.”
There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today. Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don’t specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them. That’s why it’s important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.
Zuckerberg’s comment is a veiled attack on his own users. Left to their own devices, Zuckerberg believes that they gravitate towards “misinformation” and “polarization,” and need to be fed “high-quality news” by a Facebook algorithm, instead of being free to choose the sources they like.
Facebook’s goal of finding media sources that are not “polarized” will be difficult in a media ecosystem that is separated into the mainstream media on one hand, who continue — with decreasing effectiveness — to claim a lack of bias, and the alternative media on the other hand, who are open about their biases.
In Righteous Indignation, Andrew Breitbart praised the Huffington Post for being “openly and loudly and radically leftist,” in contrast to publications like The New York Times that conceal their biases and aspire to the same kind of unbiased, “broadly trusted” status that Facebook is planning to promote.
Unless so-called “unbiased” media organizations carefully control for viewpoint diversity — and none of them are particularly strict about it — they will inevitably fall into partisan groupthink. That’s precisely what has happened to the mainstream media.
To be biased is to be human. In searching for “broadly trusted” news sources, with all the connotations of unbiasedness, Mark Zuckerberg is looking for… non-humans.
Game on. More and more people are realizing that ‘Big Tech’ is totally committed to destroying privacy for every citizen, and that something must be done to stop them before it’s too late. They are not going to give up easily, however, because Technocrats hate politicians. ⁃ TN Editor
Your personal information is being collected, organized, purchased and sold on a global market. Polls consistently show that most people are concerned they have lost control of their own personal data. No one is immune from the pervasive information grab by governments, companies, and hackers. This is happening to pretty much anyone alive (or dead) who has ever used the internet, a credit card, gone to school, subscribed to cable television or used a cell phone. There is no escaping this new reality.
However, we can change the rules that govern the way your information is collected and used.
Absolute control of your information is no longer possible, but you can and should have a say in the matter. Think of your data or information as personal property. Companies and governments can use eminent domain or other seizure processes to take that property, but the sting eases when you realize they must afford due process and justly compensate the owner for the property taken.
The biggest difference between your digital property and other personalty is that your every action online creates new digital items of value. Especially your online actions that involve monetary transactions, such as what kind of movies you watch, food you eat or places you visit. This data goes into a profile that increases the value of your information to a marketing company.
Today, internet service providers, social media and search engines develop and sell your profile. Sometimes these marketing companies develop or buy popular apps so they can directly collect information. Your digital property is making money for everyone involved in the process — except you.
The part that’s disconcerting is that it’s usually done without my knowledge or consent. This is especially troubling when it comes to my children’s information, as kids are now more in touch with electronics than any generation before them. One university study revealed that by age two, 90 percent of kids have a moderate ability to use digital devices.
There are, however, a few places that have seen the light. Switzerland, for instance, with their long established respect for personal privacy. Under Article 13 of the country’s constitutional right to privacy, authorities are not allowed access to anyone’s personal data without their notification and a thorough and transparent data request process.
Another example is Australia, where new legislation would allow consumers to own their data. This policy would force government agencies and companies to get explicit permission from users before transferring or selling their data to third parties.
Our actions create new digital property with every click of the mouse, and the result has monetary value. Companies like AT&T shouldn’t be allowed to loot our information, then profit from it. We pay them for a service, nothing more. If they want my data, they should have to compensate me. Facebook allows me to use their platform to connect with others for this privilege, and I consider it fair enough to stay on the platform. It’s my right to leave that platform, and remove their rights to my digital property when I do.
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