Between promoting fake news, allowing fake accounts, and allowing bots and trolls to promulgate, the big social media companies have failed to be honest with their customers, their advertisers, and apparently themselves
The mass shooting in Las Vegas brought once again to the forefront the issue of social media companies and their responsibility in promoting hate and fake news. For hours after the shooting, Google promoted a false report regarding who the shooter was, but worse, seemed to say that the news source was a legitimate news outlet.
As for Twitter, rather than addressing the issue of bots and trolls, it instead rolled out a scheme where certain accounts can now post tweets at twice the length of standard 140 character tweets.
Each company has serious issues that it seems incapable of addressing, yet with the make-up of Congress currently more inclined to reverse regulations rather than construct them, it is unlikely that much pressure will be coming from government authorities.
But each company is vulnerable to the pressure that will surely be coming from the advertising industry, that has made billionaires of many of the executives at tech companies, but now feel that they have been duped.
Google and Facebook Failed Us
In the crucial early hours after the Las Vegas mass shooting, it happened again: Hoaxes, completely unverified rumors, failed witch hunts, and blatant falsehoods spread across the internet.
But they did not do so by themselves: They used the infrastructure that Google and Facebook and YouTube have built to achieve wide distribution. These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers that the world has ever known, and yet they refuse to take responsibility for their active role in damaging the quality of information reaching the public.
Google admits citing 4chan to spread fake Vegas shooter news
Google News’ statement claims that these false reports landed on the service’s “Top Stories” feed due to a burst of activity for a name that had never received many search attempts. “When the fresh 4chan story broke, it triggered Top Stories, which unfortunately led to this inaccurate result,” the statement reads.
“We use a number of signals to determine the ranking of results—this includes both the authoritativeness of a site as well as how fresh it is,” the statement continues. “We’re constantly working to improve the balance and, in this case, did not get it right.”
Facebook and Google pledged to stop fake news. So why did they promote Las Vegas-shooting hoaxes?
“This is the same as yelling fire in a crowded theater,” Gabriel Kahn, a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said of Google’s and Facebook’s response. “This isn’t about free speech.”
The missteps underscore how, despite promises and efforts to rectify the problem of fake news with fact checkers and other tools after the 2016 presidential election, misinformation continues to undermine the credibility of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.
Washington failed to regulate Big Tech—and now it’s about to discover that it can’t
Dystopian warnings abound that “winter is coming” for the tech industry, in the form of a new era of tough regulations and harsh oversight from Washington. Twitter and Facebook executives are being grilled by Congress over Russia’s use of their platforms to influence the US election. Consumer advocates are demanding more policing of credit-rating agency Equifax after hackers stole 143 million Americans’ personal data from it. Dozens of senators have signed up to support SESTA, a bill that would make websites liable if people place sex trafficking ads on them.
But companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon dominate their markets, and have deep pockets and armies of lobbyists. That, combined with historical precedent, gridlock in Congress, and the Donald Trump White House’s aversion to regulation in general, means passing new laws or rules to rein them is going to be a tough battle, some government and industry veterans say.
Twitter, what the hell with all the harassment?
Let’s be frank: You need to deal with harassment. The pervasive, nonstop, everyday, all-encompassing harassment some people have been subjected to on your platform. It’s the hate campaigns, the racism, the intimidation, the deadly assault and the Russian interference in the US election. All of it.
Reality is coming down hard on social networking, and no one seems more publicly oblivious than you.
When Twitter met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week, those problems were on full display — though, not to the rest of us, since testimony was behind closed doors.
Dishonesty is not, of course, limited to only the social media companies:
Turns out that the total number of people whose lives Equifax ruined by doxing them and then dumping all their most sensitive personal and financial data is 145,500,000, not 143,000,000. The company’s new CEO apologized for the misunderstanding, and persisted in calling the people his company destroyed “customers” despite the fact that the vast majority of them were not Equifax customers, just random people whom Equifax compiled massive dossiers on, and then lost control over.