Fake news and online harassment … powerful profit drivers

Fake news and online harassment are more than social media byproducts — they’re powerful profit drivers by Soraya Chemaly.

From the post:

Fake news is being tied to everything from the influence of Russian troll farms on the presidential election to an armed man’s invasion of a Washington, D.C., restaurant as the ludicrous but terrifying culmination of an incident known as Pizzagate. Fake news isn’t just dangerous because it distorts public understanding but, as in the case of Pizzagate, or Gamergate before that, because it is frequently implicated in targeted online harassment and threats.

Most media commentary about this issue centers on three primary areas: the nature of the “truth,” the responsibilities of social media companies to the public good, and the question of why people believe outrageous and unverified claims. Very little has been said, however, about a critical factor in the spread of fake news and harassment: They are powerful drivers of profit.

Fake stories and harassment have a point of origin, but the real problem lies elsewhere — in the network effects of user-generated content, and the engagement it drives. Engagement, not content, – good or bad, true or false — is what generates Internet revenues and profit. So in that sense it makes no difference whether the content is “good” or “bad,” true or false. Our posting, sharing, commenting, liking and tweeting produces behavioral and demographic data that is then packaged and sold, repackaged and resold. In this economy, one that cuts across platforms, hateful or false representations are as easily converted into analytical, behavioral and ad-sales products as truthful or compassionate ones. Indeed, they are probably more lucrative.

Soraya dismisses the barring of “fake news” sites as a “public panacea.

As I pointed out in my post sub-titled as Hate as Renewal Resource, any viable solution must be profit-driven.

Make the blocking of hate, whatever particular kind of hate you dislike, into a product. The amount of hate in the world is almost boundless so it’s a never ending market for your product or service.

Lack of imagination on the part of Facebook, Twitter and other social media is the only explanation I have for their continued failure to enable users to filter their content (or purchase filtering from others).

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