back to article As Facebook pushes yet more fake articles, one news editor tells Mark to get a grip – or Zuck off

If ever there was an argument for why journalism is not only important but a profession requiring a broad set of specific skills, then Facebook's seeming inability to do news is it. Despite the social media giant being hauled over the coals for several months for failing to limit – or even recognize – widespread abuse of its …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The fake news functionality is not going away not now and not ever.

    Simples - it is being used by the "Good Guys" in the process of rigging other countries elections and political process in a direction we would like it go today.

    Courtesy of the 8 years of Shrub, most large Valley behemoths F***book are now firmly connected at the hip to both Langley and No Such Agency. They will not do something which will jeopardize that relationship. Namely - removing fake news propagation functionality.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Facebook summed up in one quote

      "Facebook is life clutter." - John C. Dvorak


  2. jake Silver badge

    Just a reminder.

    "The news", regardless of source, is entertainment. It is not education.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Just a reminder.

      Facebook would appear to be identifying this as "what people are saying". It is what people are saying. Those people may be deluded, or completely insane, but they''re definitely saying it.

      Disclaimer: I only visit Facebook to keep up with friends from a former (now defunct) place I worked at. And I definitely don't inhale.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just a reminder.

        Unless the people saying it are bots

  3. getHandle


    Who the hell goes to Facebook for their news??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      I wondered about this, but then I guess it depends what your opinion is on the standards of other journalism in your area. Many would argue that their local tv, radio, newspapers etc are just as hopeless.

      The big broadcasters, especially in Britain, need to get down off their high horses and realise that we don't need analysis, spin or opinion on the news. Just report the news, we'll decide whether you've reported it properly.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "we don't need analysis, spin or opinion on the news."

        Very wrong. If you just report "facts", you're just a scribe. Facts are the basis for analysis and opinions. They need to be separated, and you need different analysis and opinions. Spins are another matter.

        Not everybody has all the tools to perform his own analysis and form opinion from facts alone.

        Would you like a doctor who would just tell you the facts - your exams results, and doesn't tell you her or his analysis and opinion about fixing your health issues?

        Do most people have the knowledge to understand how far reaching are policy changes, who benefits and who doesn't, and what impact they have directly or indirectly?

        What many politician would like is exactly to put citizens in front of "facts" they are not able to understand fully, and the twist them to make them believe this is "the best of all possible worlds" (a la Pangloss).

        Why do you read El Reg otherwise? Its explicit mission is "biting the hands that feed IT". And you can't do it with exposing some facts alone - and anyway, selecting which facts to show and which not would still be analysis and opinions.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: "we don't need analysis, spin or opinion on the news."

          Very wrong. If you just report "facts", you're just a scribe.


          In the past, the hallmark of a high quality news source used to be that it always tried to differentiate between news and analysis. Sure, news sources in this class were still biased, by choosing what to report and what not. They, however, made it clear what is news and what is analysis, point of view and interpretation. An example of such news source from 40-odd years ago was International Herald Tribune. As a result, you could buy it on the other side of the wall from a newsagent (though only in large cities due to limited amount of print being shipped).

          The age of Facebook and Faux News is deforming this. Even news sources which used to be reputable now unashamedly mix position and analysis with the news to a point where the distinction simply disappears. One of the reasons for this is that the readers are now being conditioned to this. News sources which do not fit, do not survive.

          This is the greatest danger of the age of Facebook and Faux News. All news are becoming fake by the nature of position and interpretation being embedded throughout in a form where it is indistinguishable from the news. That in turn leads to 99% of the population having their opinions gradually polarized further and further because they never see a piece of information which deviates from their chosen position. Social news platforms actively assist in this as they get enough ad views only by showing articles that "fit the view". So this is exactly what they do. Regardless of the truthfulness of the contents of course.

          It is embedded within. The endgame on this is clear - we will be on each other's throats. Not a question of if, but a question of when and which fractions grab the pitchforks first.

          Frankly, I do not see how we can stop it too.

          1. Alistair Silver badge

            Re: "we don't need analysis, spin or opinion on the news."

            Voland's RH:

            I cannot but add one more upvote on that post, sir!

            We need to have a coffee or three together, on a bench in a quiet park off a busy city street sometime.

            "That in turn leads to 99% of the population having their opinions gradually polarized further and further because they never see a piece of information which deviates from their chosen position.

            This. Ten *million* times this. Loudly.

            The last 40 years have been about preventing the events of the mid 60's from ever happening again - having large portions of the population working together in massive numbers. Numbers that dwarf the authoritarian militias available to put down the complaint.

            "The endgame on this is clear - we will be on each other's throats. Not a question of if, but a question of when"

            We are *already* there. NOW. To whit, events in Virginia w/r/t "Tiki Torches". This was almost a perfect model for what is expected of the population now. It just (in the final form) will need more violence on BOTH sides. There have been a dozen such events in north eastern India in the last 4 years, utterly not reported to the western world, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, Philippines.

            I rather suspect that with the digital world invading deeper and deeper into third world, fourth world territories there will be more "villages" slaughtering other "villages" over polarized views all over the world.

            The more polarized and divided the population the less the golden children of the upper echelon need to worry about their own necks. Everyone thought that series of books was fiction, but it is what is already, painted in true colours. We will be playing the hunger games soon enough.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "we don't need analysis, spin or opinion on the news."

            @Voland's right hand

            "The endgame on this is clear - we will be on each other's throats"

            I see a different ending where the masses all believe the same and the marginalised 10% who either decide to think for themselves or disagree get rounded up and reeducated. Certain views are already being pushed as defacto and you must agree. There may be some fightback against this but it's already more than half way there.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      You are obviously a Graunidad reader.

      The answer to your question is: Plenty of people unfortunately.

      The same part of the population which reads Sun, Express and the Daily Mail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF?

        I read the Graunidad, only yesterday I built a gender neutral snow person.

        1. Credas Silver badge

          Re: WTF?

          only yesterday I built a gender neutral snow person.

          How racially diverse was your snowperson, though?

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: WTF?

            Hey now - "he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone". Would YOU be willing to build your snow person out of yellow snow?!?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: WTF?

            "How racially diverse was your snowperson, though?"

            I'm guessing pretty white.

            Unless a dog had been by, then yellow.

            Or if it was snow scraped off a road, which tends toward brown/black.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: WTF?

          Snow! What's wrong with us slush people?

          1. Glenturret Single Malt

            Re: WTF?

            And your pet dog, the Slush Puppy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      I linked through to this story from Facebook. Y'know the internet and all that linking around the place... allows for crazy recklessness like looking at my mate's new baby photos and then right after linking to an IT story... the future is now!

      ps. obligatory look at the baby or his wife will corner with an iphone of pics next time i see them!

    4. DougS Silver badge

      Few "go to Facebook for news"

      But a lot of people go to Facebook, and once there if there is news they may read it. Either because it is news they hadn't seen elsewhere yet, or because they don't make any effort to go anywhere for news so what they see on Facebook is nearly 100% of their news consumption.

      I read news linked off Facebook, either because one of my friends shared it, or because it is something interesting I hadn't seen that one of my friends interacted with (like my angry libertarian friend who lives in a Chicago suburb, she's always complaining about the taxes in Illinois on posts from WGN or the Tribune...makes me wonder why she doesn't move!) I certainly don't go there for news, but I do consume some while there - even if one never read a single article the way headlines are written can influence people and you can't help seeing those as you scroll your feed.

    5. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      People who are stupid, lazy, or both.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      According to Facebook's numbers for the last quarter of last year: Not as many people as before. The numbers dropped by 5% for that period.

      Your good news for the day, and you're welcome.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That Audrey Cooper talks a lot of sense. I think the only way this is going to get resolved is if Facebook bans news but that's never going to happen.

  5. Paratrooping Parrot

    Everything in one place????

    It seems that the general population has an inability to source different things from different places. For me, Facebook is just about keeping in touch with friends. I don't use it for news. If I want to know what is happening in the tech world, I come here. If I want to know what is happening in the UK, I go to the BBC or the Independent, if I want to feel outraged and demoralised, there's the Daily Mail for that.

    Why do people want to have everything in one place? I remember watching in horror as people used to check their email by typing in their webmail provider name in Google. I think for many people, Facebook has replaced Google. Maybe there needs to be studies in UX design to try and get people to use several sources for different things. Maybe this is why supermarkets work, people want everything to be in one place.

  6. hplasm Silver badge

    Laziness and Stupidity

    Monetise either or both of those, and you can be as rich as Zuck.

    Oh- I see now...

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Re: Laziness and Stupidity

      "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." - JFK, Inaugural Address

      "Ask not what I can do for the stupid - ask what the stupid can do for me." - Graeme Garden, The Goodies

  7. Like Magic

    Facebook are using fake virus alert to collect personal info

    "Let's check your device for malicious software" - according to Facebook.

    I have been blocked from logging onto Facebook account unless I download their doctored malware scanning software ESET. The problem is you can download it on Ubuntu but it will not run. The condition of running this doctored version of ESET is you give Facebook permission to access all the files on your computer.

    What have I done to upset Facebook they want a rectal probe of my computer?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not feeling sympathy for this Newspaper Editor

    The paper continues to use Facebook for advertising despite everything we know about this corporation. Even going as far as trying to appeal to a guy who calls users 'dumb fucks'!!! Zuk is a cult leader sociopath. You can't appeal to that, there is no better nature!

    Wake up! Go and spend your Ad dollars somewhere else. Stop trying to chase the bottom line. America has a sickness for 'Gotta make a million doesn't matter who dies / Get rich or die trying'... Facebook's model is only about making money for Facebook!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Not feeling sympathy for this Newspaper Editor

      If the other newspapers' articles are linked to on Facebook and yours aren't guess what happens to your readership?

      In an ideal world people bookmark their favourite websites and check each one every few days - depending on speed of content turning up. In reality, most people don't use the web like that.

      Hence even good journalists are reduced to fishing for scraps from Facebook's table.

  9. Lars Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Zuck is just too greedy.

  10. }{amis}{ Silver badge

    The wrong guy won............

    The world be a better place if Bond had not won in Die Another Day!

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Reducing the news in the feed isn't going to solve their problem

    I can post a link to a cat video or news story, and others can see my post with the news story and share it, and it'll still spread. Most of the fake news like the Hillary caused the train crash thing aren't sponsored stories being paid for, they are being posted by individuals and then shared and re-shared.

    If they want to de-emphasize news they'll need to be able to figure out when someone is posting news. That's obvious if it is CBS or the Wall Street Journal, but they aren't the ones making up the crazy stories. If they figure out a list of domains sharing conspiracy theory style news, the ones spreading it will just change domains all the time - or build up a "good" rep for it by sharing innocuous stuff like listicles or funny cat videos, then once it has wide reach they can start using it to post fake news until Facebook's algorithms drop it down and they move on to the next domain, lather rinse repeat.

    I don't see how Facebook can fix this problem without human intervention. AIs can't do this now and won't be able to do this 20 years from now. We would need a REAL AI for that.

  12. Rob D. Bronze badge

    Humans are just social animals seeking familiarity

    "People are fickle, prejudiced, easily swayed, and just as easily conned. Plus, of course, they are not getting paid to focus in on the truth. Sharing a post takes one tap and two seconds. What does it matter if it's not real?"

    The 'fickle, prejudiced, easily swayed and conned' part is just the way human brains are wired by the biology of the animal. The brain 'likes' stuff by establishing connections, and filters stuff by seeking familiarity with established connections while blotting out stuff which doesn't fit (implicit bias is fascinating).

    When the news choice is which physical newspaper, each catering to a group with a million disparate but overlapping views, then the choice is consciously black or white (left or right, if you prefer). When there is no transparent choice being made by the individual, when an algorithm based on your harvested likes and preferences decides what you see, then the individual filter bubble is created.

    While people prefer being spoon fed by someone else, then they will remain a baby in the arms of the news provider. Starting to make positive decisions about finding information, challenging the content and thinking beyond preference are some first steps to maturity.

    The baby has a lot of money though. Maturity is less lucrative and harder to exploit.

  13. Platypus

    So Facebook takes this suggestion and hires a bunch of editors, who at some point inevitably turn out to all be Trumpians who brand anything they don't like as fake news. Or Bernians who do likewise from a different direction. Then the same people continue to lambaste them for doing The Wrong Thing because it was *never* about doing what's right or protecting democracy or anything like that. A lot of it is competitors in the information business doing what competitors do, along with a big dose of Tall Poppy Syndrome.

    Dealing with fake news doesn't mean giving any one group editorial control - not Facebook itself, not El Reg, sure as hell not any government. It means allowing multiple rating or collaborative-filtering services to flourish, and giving users a *choice* of which ones to trust, much as we do for spam filters and ad blockers. It's a market, not a planned information economy. Facebook's role is to help users find anti-fake-news filters *they* trust, and to honor the results as they're displaying an individual user's feed.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      It's spelled "Hibernians"

  14. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Fewer ifs and more butts.

    First, that line deserves a Pulitzer. Second, in a time when a man who failed at nearly every endeavor, except playing a clown on television, occupies the highest office in the land, why express outrage at false information on websites where every clown can be a star? Welcome to the Society of the Spectacle.

    That is our reality. At the moment, those of us still able to see through the smoke can only wring our hands and grind our teeth. The people who read that crap on FB don't care about truth, ethics or morality. They only want to be entertained. Maybe the discussion should be about how we can rehabilitate digital-crack addicts. Cutting off their supply looks to be impossible. There's too much money to be made, and there's that pesky First Amendment (which I support, sometimes grudgingly).

  15. User McUser

    Oh FFS - fixing this is EASY

    Step 1 - Setup a news white-list. If you aren't on the list then your "news" won't be allowed.

    Step 2 - Create a process whereby *any* news site can apply to be added to the white-list. This would be human reviewed by qualified people and the sites would be required to meet very basic journalism standards such as only publishing actual, factual news and having a clear demarcation between what's news and what's commentary or editorial content. (This is neither difficult nor burdensome.)

    Step 3 - Review these sites on a regular basis to make sure that they are still in compliance.


    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: Oh FFS - fixing this is EASY

      Step 1: Easy

      Step 2: Short term effort

      Step 3: Long term effort.

      If, as the article suggests, FB don't care; why would they invest effort?

    2. mrobaer

      Re: Oh FFS - fixing this is EASY

      Do you think this will stop people from "sharing" the "news" they find around the web? At least twice a week I see people sharing duffleblog or the onion satire articles, with predictable outrage and ignorance of the aforementioned satire.

  16. Mike 16 Silver badge

    The irony...

    So, this is from the editor of a (since 2000) Hearst newspaper. Yep, _that_ Hearst, co-inventor of "Yellow Journalism" and major sponsor of the Spanish-American war.

    Not to say the Chronicle today follows that path, as I have not read it in years, but "What goes around, comes around"

  17. Bucky 2

    I'm going to have to side with Zuck on this one.

    What were his words? People who use Facebook for news are what again? Oh, yeah: "Dumb shits."

    If people want to live their lives as insensate animals instead of rational human beings, there's really nothing any of us can do to stop them.

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