I was, frankly, amazed when I saw this tweet:
Let me remind you that Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Marty Baron’s industry — newspapers — is one without a business model (Baron’s newspaper is more fortunate than most in its reliance on a billionaire’s largesse). Said lack of business model is leading to a dwindling of local coverage, click-chasing, and, arguably, Donald Trump. That seems like a pretty big problem!
Fake news, on the other hand, tells people who’ve already made up their minds what they want to hear. Certainly it’s not ideal, but the tradeoffs in dealing with the problem, at least in terms of Facebook, are very problematic. I wrote last fall in Fake News:
I get why top-down solutions are tempting: fake news and filter bubbles are in front of our faces, and wouldn’t it be better if Facebook fixed them? The problem is the assumption that whoever wields that top-down power will just so happen to have the same views I do. What, though, if they don’t? Just look at our current political situation: those worried about Trump have to contend with the fact that the power of the executive branch has been dramatically expanded over the decades; we place immense responsibility and capability in the hands of one person, forgetting that said responsibility and capability is not so easily withdrawn if we don’t like the one wielding it.
To that end I would be far more concerned about Facebook were they to begin actively editing the News Feed; as I noted last week I’m increasingly concerned about Zuckerberg’s utopian-esque view of the world, and it is a frighteningly small step from influencing the world to controlling the world. Just as bad would be government regulation: our most critical liberty when it comes to a check on tyranny is the freedom of speech, and it would be directly counter to that liberty to put a bureaucrat — who reports to the President — in charge of what people see.