Sunday, February 12, 2017

Is There A Role For Government In Fighting The Latest World Wide Right-Wing Scourge: Fake News


The Washington Post recently defined fake news as "deliberately constructed lies, in the form of news articles, meant to mislead the public." Last month California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez-- currently running for the open L.A. congressional seat Xavier Bacerra left to become state Attorney General-- introduced a bill in Sacramento to empower educators to help school children understand the difference between actual news and Trump's and Putin's Alt-News, i.e., fake news. Some right-wing hack in a bowtie on Fox-- Tucker Carlson I think-- had a meltdown over it. After all, if people understood what fake news was, who would watch Fox? Gomez's bill "would require the state to establish curriculum standards and frameworks to teach 'civic online reasoning' to middle- and high-schoolers. The intention is to help give youngsters 'the ability to judge the credibility and quality of information found on Internet Web sites, including social media,' the bill states. That's an existential threat to would be tyrants like Team Trump, as well as to their media outlets.

“For every challenge facing this nation, there are numerous Internet sources pretending to be something they are not,” according to the proposed legislation. “With so much information shared on the Internet, it can be difficult to tell the difference between real news and fake news.

“Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed, but information shared on the Internet is disseminated rapidly and often without editorial oversight, making it easier for fake news to reach a large audience.”

It comes at a time when, Gomez said, “we have seen the corrupting effects of a deliberate propaganda campaign driven by fake news.”

“When fake news is repeated, it becomes difficult for the public to discern what's real,” he said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “These attempts to mislead readers pose a direct threat to our democracy.”
As you can imagine, Republicans and other purveyors of fake news have been hyperbolic over Gomez's proposal. Yesterday, a British newspaper, The Telegraph reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook is as concerned about fake news as Jimmy Gomez is-- and "is calling for governments to launch a public information campaign to fight the scourge of fake news, which is 'killing people’s minds."
In an impassioned plea, Mr Cook, boss of the world’s largest company, says that the epidemic of false reports “is a big problem in a lot of the world” and necessitates a crackdown by the authorities and technology firms.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, he calls for a campaign similar to those that changed attitudes on the environment to educate the public on the threat posed by fabricated online stories.

Made-up news reports trying to promote a particular agenda gained huge traction on social media in the US during the election.

“It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public,” said Mr Cook. “There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic.

"We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will.”

The rise of fake news was being driven by unscrupulous firms determined to attract online readers at any cost, he said.

“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” he said. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way.”

Tech firms, which have been criticised for doing too little, also need to up their game, he said.

“All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news.

"We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press, but we must also help the reader. Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”

He said that this crackdown would help providers of quality journalism and help drive out clickbait. “The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, non-sensational, deep news outlets will win,” Mr Cook said.

“The [rise of fake news] is a short-term thing-- I don’t believe that people want that at the end of the day.”

A new approach was required in schools, he said. “It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid.”

But he is optimistic. “In some ways kids will be the easiest to educate. At least before a certain age, they are very much in listen and understand [mode], and they then push their parents to act. We saw this with environmental issues: kids learning at school and coming home and saying why do you have this plastic bottle? Why are you throwing it away?”

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At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Don't expect Betsy DeVos to get behind any of this. For one, I am sure she will push for the teaching of creationism in science class. Science, schmiance is the stance of alt news and alt facts.

Of course, when any of these looneys go to the doctor with serious health problems, suddenly science is just fine. And they do love THEIR health insurance, all of those Congressman who get socialized coverage for life! The press should be mentioning this in every article about health coverage.

The hypocrisy of it all is breathtaking. The stupidity of so many Americans is as well.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed,"

I have to say that back in like the 60's, that was not always a sure-fire way to get accurate information about the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, campus uprisings, etc. There was plenty of propaganda and censorship and intimidation.
But the idea of teaching people critical thinking skills: how to ask themselves the right questions every single time they're faced with new information, that gets right to the heart of it. The problem, apparently, is that this can be thwarted in individual school systems.
To look on the bright side, we already have a huge portion of the population that can read, has internet access and an ability to think. Not all of us, but a lot of us.

And also, Melissa McCarthy is so good at this! Somehow those high heels just exactly hit the mark. Funny and mad kills it.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can teach critical thinking all you want; but can you teach/legislate that US intelligence disinformation programs stay out of our news? Hell, when weapons of mass destruction, yellow cake and the Kuwaiti ambassadors daughter's incubator baby war ad (created by Hill & Knowlton PR) was before our very Congress (educated college grads), they didn't know this was fake?? Luckily it only led to just a trillion dollar + war that goes on today. We'd be better off teaching kids advertising techniques.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, fake news is nothing new. Reagan repudiated both the Equal Time and Fairness doctrines in the '80s. And even before that "news" was spun differently depending where you live and from what you consumed.

Once media all consolidated (by the time of Clinton) and "news" was rolled in with "entertainment" for profit... all was and is forever lost.

Short of legislating criminal sentences for lying (like creationism) and forcing "news" to be profit neutral and jailing journalists AND PUNDITS for lying... it can never again be the true 4th rail. It's now and forever horseshit dropping out of the south end of northbound Goebbels protégés.

With the sad state of education, becoming truly abominable under devos and drumpf, the caustic influence of religious delusion and the statistical predominance of stupidity (several generations now of stupid people outreproducing smart people), the usa will be among the dumbest of the dumbfucktard societies from here until the climate kills everyone. Probably a century or two at most left.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

I stopped watching TV news in 1975 for all the reasons the 2nd commenter mentioned (and more), and then I read (especially) the NY Times this past year as it spewed lies from the news, the editorial, and the op-ed pages to hide, ridicule and misreport the Sanders campaign.

Critical thinking is what MUST be taught and practiced constantly.


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