back to article Tech giants should take the rap for enabling fake news, boffins tell EU

Giant US tech platforms are spreading misinformation and deliberately hiding their algorithms to evade scrutiny, according to a report for the European Commission. The expert working group on fake news and disinformation headed by law professor Dr Madeleine de Cock Buning warned there's no quick fix to the problem – and …

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Holmes

Blame the news on the messenger

Is it the politicians, salespeople, priests and scientists who create the fake news in the first place? Or is it the paper mills, copper mines and glass foundries who provide the means for distributing it?

"More people are confident they can identify false news or misinformation than not"

Our country is blessed by the gods and most people think they are better drivers, better lovers, more honest, smarter or have more common sense than average.

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It is because the world is full of ignorant twats

Once upon a time we got emails from friends, relatives, and acquaintances warning us about some nonsense or other. It is why scopes was created so that we could point them to the fact that some ill little girl did not want postcards, that having a system32 directory did not mean you have a very bad virus, and that Dihydrogen Monoxide was parody:

http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

All of that bullshit has now transferred from email to facebook, and our penchant for passing on the weird remains undiminished.

Note: The gubmint is not spraying poison trails from aircraft, there are no secret cities buried under the Mojave Dessert, and Boris is not going to be putting an extra £350 million a week into the NHS.

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Meh

Thank god for tech giants

Imagine the Internet consisted of small independent services; who would be to blame then?

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Devil

Re: Thank god for tech giants

Big Tech is responsible for all the crackpot sites, because they must be, because they're Big Tech.

simple isn't it?

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"Media literacy"

Oh yes, that'll totally work. Because improving education has solved every other problem, right?

Pro tip: if a report's keystone recommendation is "we need smarter people", that suggests the people writing it really don't have any ideas at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Who needs Fake News

when you have Propoganda ?

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Too big

I hate the too big argument the big internet companies always spout.

They claim they can't be held responsible for spreading misinformation, because they are too big. They shouldn't be held to the laws of other platforms (such as disclosure about funding for political advertising), because Internet, because they are too big.

For me, it is the other way round, the laws were there before these companies were big, heck, most of the laws were in place before the companies founders were born, therefore the companies have no excuse for not following the law, they had a duty to build such safeguards into their systems, before they got big!

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Holmes

Re: Too big

they had a duty to build such safeguards into their systems, before they got big

Well actually, the thing is, there is no law forcing those companies to build safeguards. If there was such a law, they'd be getting sued already. What's under discussion is whether they will police themselves, or whether governments will have to write ham-fisted laws forcing them to.

That said, I don't recall big tech ever openly claiming they were too big to be regulated. They might play with the notion, hinting that they'll just leave the country and drop services if regulators attempt to control them; but I've never seen an example where they just go out and use that as an argument. In fact, it'd be pretty stupid of them to do that, because that's precisely the kind of behavior that means regulators should intervene.

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Re: Too big

That is pretty much the excuse for not reporting political advertising during the US elections, Facebook and Google said they were too big, or their platforms are too big, and it would be impossible to do.

As media companies reporting political advertising is a legal requirement, they should have thought about it, before they got "too big".

Size isn't a valid excuse for breaking the law. If they/their platforms are too big to control, that is their problem and they have to find a solution, it doesn't absolve them of their legal responsibilities and duties. That it would be expensive to implement, again, is not regulators' or law enforcement's problem, it is a problem the platforms have to face as part of doing business.

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Re: Too big

'I've never seen an example where they just go out and use that as an argument.'

Perhaps not directly, but they get their astroturfers and shills, such as the EFF and Public Knowledge to make the claim that anything that affects their balance sheet will BREAK TEH INNERTUBES. In fact they use the same bot and useful idiots techniques as the Russians. Example SOPA and that recent thing regarding sexual exploitation FOSTA which they claimed would BREAK TEH INNERTUBES but apparently hasn't.

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Re: Too big

Size isn't a valid excuse for breaking the law. If they/their platforms are too big to control, that is their problem and they have to find a solution, it doesn't absolve them of their legal responsibilities and duties. That it would be expensive to implement, again, is not regulators' or law enforcement's problem, it is a problem the platforms have to face as part of doing business.

Very true. Imagine if a company said it was so big that they couldn't possibly keep accurate account, or couldn't possibly ensure their food products were complying with food safety regulations...

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...providing alternative links may be more effective. It envisaged a goal of "an open market for fact-checking" that avoids a "monopoly of truth" with a management board "composed of experts"

While "providing alternative link" may help in certain circumstances, I doubt it will have a large effect.

Humans are incredibly vulnerable to confirmation bias. Once they have formed an opinion, it is very difficult to change it. They will actively seek out information which confirms their opinion and give it a high weight, while contradictory information will be avoided and dismissed. It is an incredibly difficult task to minimise this in your own behaviour (I was going to say avoid, but I don't believe it's possible to completely avoid it). It is nearly impossible to affect another's confirmation bias: they must want to do it themselves, unless there is such unavoidable evidence that their view is incorrect that they cannot avoid it. Even then, there are many who will bury their heads in the sand: It's not easy to admit that you were wrong.

I know that I am guilty of this. There are many, for instance, far right websites I actively avoid. I find the material they publish to be distasteful, but also in such harsh contrast to my own world views that I struggle to do anything but instantly dismiss them. I do attempt to read stories from less extreme sources which conflict with my own world view, but it's still difficult not to be dismissive.

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You say confirmation bias, I say principles. The difference is, I don't feel guilty.

I have an open mind and I do seek out alternative viewpoints, but my principles are somewhat contrary to "mainstream" "progressive" principles. I see adherents of the latter as close-minded ideologues with nothing of value to say (and I feel the same way about a lot of so-called conservatives, libertarians, white supremacists, etc - but they don't control the media).

When I see the usual tripe coming from the usual "news sources", "fact checkers", activists, and politicians, it just reinforces my impression that they're trying to spread misinformation through repetition and appeals to authority. Fake news! It really is. And real progressives should be ashamed of themselves for giving any credence this shameless pandering from the same old warmongers they used to rail against.

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You say confirmation bias, I say principles. The difference is, I don't feel guilty... Fake news! It really is. And real progressives should be ashamed of themselves for giving any credence this shameless pandering from the same old warmongers they used to rail against.

And here is part of the issue. You call it "the usual tripe", and blast people for "giving [it] any credence". That is to say that (whatever sources you are talking about) you completely dismiss it out of hand, which is dangerous.

As an example I spoke to one guy who was convinced that the vast majority of Muslims wanted to kill all non-Muslims. He had never spoken to a Muslim about their religion or their views. When I pointed out that I have known many and none wanted to kill anyone, his response was "well they would say that, wouldn't they". He was completely closed to the idea that any Muslim could be a good person, and no evidence could convince him otherwise. In his view I had been brainwashed by the PC culture, and anything I said was dismissed out of hand as lefty propaganda.

As soon as you dismiss any source out of hand you create a dangerous situation for yourself, closing your mind off. You read more sources which confirm your viewpoint, and less which disagree with it. This is textbook confirmation bias, and can lead to dismissing provable facts just because they don't fit your own world view.

I'm not having a go at you, or anyone else. As I said, I try not to let it but I know that it affects me too. It's a part of human nature, but it's a part we should at least attempt to minimise.

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Anonymous Coward

Fake news the bastard child of lazy journalism

Fake news is the enevitable result of mainstream news spending all it's time talking to "eyewitnesses" on the ground who saw nothing or imagined events or speculate on the situation. When TV news turned to interviewing Billy Nobody and Sharon Random instead of gathering some actual facts that is when credible News just became vacuous opinion and anyone with a conspiracy theory, hunch, belief or biased opinion was given a platform to talk crap, fake news was born.

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