Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News but the Tech Companies?

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

The companies ask that we take them at their word: We’re trying, but this is hard — we can’t fix this overnight. OK, we get it. But if the tech giants aren’t finding the same misinformation that observers armed with nothing more sophisticated than access to a search bar are in the aftermath of these events, there’s really only one explanation for it: If they can’t see it, they aren’t truly looking.

How hard would it be, for example, to have a team in place reserved exclusively for large-scale breaking news events to do what outside observers have been doing: scan and monitor for clearly misleading conspiratorial content inside its top searches and trending modules?

It’s not a foolproof solution. But it’s something.

It’s the same reason why Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are overrun with state-backed troll accounts from Russia. Engagement leads to growth, growth is all that matters, and if the trolls and fake news are engaging, better not to look for them. The oft-quoted Upton Sinclair quote fits perfectly: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Friday, 23 February 2018