Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Message multiplier

With the US Presidential election lost, Vox is in full Gegenpressing mode and whereas much of its focus during the election was on complaints about the way political stories were presented in the New York Times and CNN, now it's all about Facebook. Leave aside the inconsistency of all the past Vox complaints about the New York Times, which it now understands to be at the mercy of how its coverage gets filtered by Facebook algorithms and users. Here's today's addition to the indictment --

fake news is more viral than real news ... Caulfield found that at least one article from a fake news site was shared far more widely and thus reached a far greater number of people than some concurrently “trending” articles from respected news sources like the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. Ultimately, the fake article garnered thousands more shares than several of the real news stories he looked at.

There's a methodological issue around making the general statement fake news being more viral than "real" news based on one example. But there's even a conceptual problem. Fake news attracts attention precisely because of its uniqueness: "real" news will never be viral because by definition, it's being reported by lots of outlets and no one will see any value to sharing it. Fake news can be constructed to a context with the purpose of being surprising and getting attention -- the originality and targeting gives it a platform that real news does not have.

Another way to say this is that fake news is trolling -- it's designed to provoke and draw a reaction. That failure to understand how trolling could be a political strategy has put a troll in the White House. 

No comments: