Facebook Will Decide What News to Trust. You’re Welcome.

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Social media’s highest powers meddling in our news feeds is nothing to be surprised about. Denials of bias have accompanied pleas of ignorance and innocence when the likes of Facebook or Twitter have been accused of manipulating the news cycle to suppress certain ideologies or viewpoints. In some cases evidence contrary to their claims of neutrality has been overwhelming, including an employee’s admission of inherent, algorithmic liberal bias within their news cycle.

In each instance of public complaint or accusation, slightly altered iterations of the same response are given, almost always via electronic, written statements that mirror Facebook’s veiled, unaccountable mode of operation.

In response to that employee’s claims, Zuck claimed (via written statement) that "we take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product,” attempting to give more legitimacy to these assertions by adding that he would be "inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum" to discuss the issue. At the end of the day, we are expected to buy into the idea that the employee’s claims have no veracity and that Facebook’s methods of news cycling remains beyond reproach.

"Facebook does not allow or advice our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period," the statement also reads.

Facebook has also done little to fight the maligned German “hate speech” laws which forces censorship on social media companies under the guise of eliminating racist content. Should companies not remove content deemed to be insensitive by bureaucratic overlords, they face million dollar fines until they are deemed compliant. Sure, one couldn’t necessarily blame the likes of Facebook and Twitter for avoiding these massive fines, but one also couldn’t be blamed for harboring the inkling that these left-leaning, politically correct social media giants which reflect Left Coast values to a T don’t find this ‘forced’ censorship disconcerting in the least. In fact, one could argue based on the former employee’s testimony that admitted suppression of conservative outlets is not dissimilar from the hate speech laws sweeping across Europe.

Laws that were created under this kind of Orwellian logic:

"There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate," said Richard Corbett, a British MEP who backed the new rule.

"What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say: 'Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It's broad, it's live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let's use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular,'" he told The Associated Press.

What if people could use the platform of social media to spread a message that people latched onto…the horror!

We couldn’t have that, so now the likes of Germany and the UK have enacted these far more reasonable laws:

‘Rule 165 of the parliament's rules of procedure allows the chair of debates to halt the live broadcast "in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a member." The maximum fine for offenders would be around 9,000 euros ($9,500).’ (Telegraph)

What qualifies as xenophobic, defamatory, or racist? You can bet criticism of Islam does, for one. What about criticism of Angela Merkel or Theresa May? That’s the logical next step, isn’t it?

We can’t be sure, as the process for making these determinations are shrouded in ambiguous terms. We do know, however, that the European Commission has commended Facebook and Twitter’s “steady progress” in conforming to their censorship rules. Apparently, Facebook – in lieu of a mandate from the United States government – has decided that a similar approach to news-engineering is necessary globally, at least for those who rely on Facebook for news, which is a staggering, depressing amount of people.

‘The other potential change would involve ranking news outlets based on some measures of credibility, such as public polling about news outlets, and whether readers are willing to pay for news from particular publishers, the people familiar with the matter said. Such variables would inform the Facebook algorithms that determine which publishers’ posts are pushed higher in the feed, one of the people said.’

They are using terms such as “quality of content”, “trustworthy”, “relevant”, and “informative” to justify their ranking of these news sources, which will no doubt lead to the suppression of sources deemed undesirable by the Social Network’s leadership. Trust, these ‘variables’ will not be transparent. They never are.

Facebook recently elaborated further on the guidelines by which it will ‘rank’ news sources, and they are just as ambiguous and prone to convenient interpretation as you may suspect. As they tend to, Facebook posted the announcement on their own blog, a subtly consistent method that hints at their own self-image, not feeling the need to rely upon traditional news sources to get the information out. After all, Facebook is the news source for most these days.

Zuckerberg begins the post with ensuring that our news is “high-quality”, a word that should ring alarm bells to anybody who knows that news is news. Truth is truth, lies are lies, speculation is speculation. Quality is not a word that belongs in the conversation, as it is ambiguous and thus prone to manipulation of meaning based on subjective viewpoints.

This is a particularly concerning sentence, too:

“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.”

So, Facebook is going to fix the polarization in the world by…adhering to one pole over the other? How else could this be interpreted?

But, instead of consulting experts, which Zuckerberg says “would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem”, he says that the best way to solve the issue of what news is “trustworthy” is to ask, of all sources, the Facebook community. You know, the polarized Facebook community.

Either this is some kind of false-empowerment mind game meant to make the people believe that they actually have a role in deciding what they read (likely) or Facebook really, seriously did not think this through (highly unlikely).

Here’s how the actual process will play out:

“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.)”

Is that the idea? Name a news source that is universally trusted by both the left and the right?

New York Times? Nope. Fox News? Absolutely not. The Wall Street Journal? Closer, but still no.

There is virtually no news site that defies the polarizing concept of ‘trust in media’ and those who don’t have strong opinions and generally ‘trust’ a source even though they, in Zuck’s words, ‘don’t follow them directly’ have no basis for saying that they trust the source. How can they trust it if they don’t follow it directly?

This criteria makes absolutely no logical sense, and if anything, gives the most power of influence to the most ignorant. Those who trust Fox News will likely cancel out those who trust CNN. Those who are familiar with both but don’t trust will do the same. But the most news-ignorant who aren’t really familiar with any news sources except for tangential knowledge of their name and third-hand impression of their ‘trustworthiness’ will be left to decide: who do you trust.

The outcome is clear: the likes of The New York Times, and the Washington Post, once somewhat neutral in their coverage but long since bastions of the left’s narrative, will get top rank. Fox News, which has garnered an undue amount of hatred and reputation-smearing which renders is as verbally acidic as the C-word will be deemed untrustworthy by the ignorant public. And thus, you have your well-crafted, brilliant media-engineering, courtesy of the minds at Facebook.

No laws or fines necessary.

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