3941 stories
·
12 followers

'They don't care': Facebook factchecking in disarray as journalists push to cut ties | Technology

1 Comment

Journalists working as factcheckers for Facebook have pushed to end a controversial media partnership with the social network, saying the company has ignored their concerns and failed to use their expertise to combat misinformation.

Current and former Facebook factcheckers told the Guardian that the tech platform’s collaboration with outside reporters has produced minimal results and that they’ve lost trust in Facebook, which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work. Some said Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm that used an antisemitic narrative to discredit critics – fueling the same kind of propaganda factcheckers regularly debunk – should be a deal-breaker.

“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” said Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck … They clearly don’t care.”

Facebook began building its partnerships with news outlets after the 2016 presidential election, during which fake stories and political propaganda reached hundreds of millions of users on the platform. The goal was to rely on journalists to flag false news and limit its spread, but research and anecdotal evidence have repeatedly suggested that the debunking work has struggled to make a difference.

Facebook now has more than 40 media partners across the globe, including the Associated Press, PolitiFact and the Weekly Standard, and has said false news on the platform is “trending downward”.

While some newsroom leaders said the relationship was positive, other partners said the results were unclear and that they had grown increasingly resentful of Facebook, especially following revelations that the company had paid a consulting firm to go after opponents by publicizing their association with billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros. The attacks fed into a well-known conspiracy theory about Soros being the hidden hand behind all manner of liberal causes and global events. It was later revealed that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, had directed her staff to research Soros’s financial interests after he publicly criticized the company.

“Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own factcheckers are calling fake news?” said a current Facebook factchecker who was not authorized to speak publicly about their news outlet’s partnership. “It’s worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?”

“Working with Facebook makes us look bad,” added the journalist, who has advocated for an end to the partnership.

Another factchecker who has long worked on the Facebook partnership said they were demoralized: “They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Binkowski, who left Snopes earlier this year and now runs her own factchecking site, which does not partner with Facebook, said the Facebook-Snopes partnership quickly became counterproductive. During early conversations with Facebook, Binkowski said she tried to raise concerns about misuse of the platform abroad, such as the explosion of hate speech and misinformation during the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and other violent propaganda.

“I was bringing up Myanmar over and over and over,” she said. “They were absolutely resistant.”

Binkowski, who previously reported on immigration and refugees, said Facebook largely ignored her: “I strongly believe that they are spreading fake news on behalf of hostile foreign powers and authoritarian governments as part of their business model.”

Kim LaCapria recently left Snopes as a content manager and factchecker partly due to her frustrations with the Facebook arrangement. She said it quickly seemed clear that Facebook wanted the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything” and that she was particularly upset to learn that Facebook was paying Snopes: “That felt really gross … Facebook has one mission and factchecking websites should have a completely different mission.”

Binkowski said that on at least one occasion, it appeared that Facebook was pushing reporters to prioritize debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers, which she thought crossed a line: “You’re not doing journalism any more. You’re doing propaganda.”

A Facebook spokesperson repeatedly declined to comment on whether advertisers influenced factchecking, saying in an email, “The primary way we surface potentially false news to third-party factcheckers is via machine learning.”

After publication of this article, however, Facebook published a blogpost saying it does not ask partners to prioritize factchecks related to advertisers.

Other times, Snopes ended up factchecking satirical articles for Facebook, which felt like a waste of time and in certain instances, sparked intense backlash against Snopes, the former staffers said. Once Snopes became an official partner, there was also a noticeable increase in online harassment, death threats and attacks from far-right users and prominent conservatives who accused the factcheckers and Facebook of having a leftwing bias and agenda, Binkowski said.

When reporters got caught in these kinds of firestorms, Facebook let individual journalists shoulder the blame, she said: “They threw us under the bus at every opportunity.”

Added LaCapria: “We were just collateral damage.”

A Facebook representative said it has begun incorporating journalist safety training for new partners.

LaCapria, who is now working with Binkowski on her new site, said it became difficult to report on Facebook at Snopes due to the financial arrangement: “We knew that if anything involved Facebook it was at risk of being compromised.”

“Most of us feel it’s more trouble than it’s worth,” said one current factchecker.

Facebook has said that third-party factchecking is one part of its strategy to fight misinformation, and has claimed that a “false” rating leads an article to be ranked lower in news feed, reducing future views by 80% on average. The company has refused, however, to publicly release any data to support these claims.

One current factchecker said the process overall was too slow and that often their factchecks came too late: “By the time it gets to us, how many people have already seen it?”

In contrast, Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact, said the partnership was a “public service”, and that “Facebook is helping us identify questionable material”. The revenue from Facebook “added to our overall sustainability”, she said.

Asked of the impacts of her site’s work, she said, “Is it reducing fake content on Facebook? I don’t know, I can’t tell. Can Facebook tell? You would assume they could. I don’t have any way of knowing.”

Facebook said in a statement that it had “heard feedback from our partners that they’d like more data on the impact of their efforts”, adding that it has started sending “quarterly reports” with “customized statistics” to partners and would be “looking for more statistics to share externally in early 2019”. Facebook declined to share the reports with the Guardian.

PolitiFact has not yet received any reports, according to Holan, who said Facebook stated the documents must remain private once they are produced.

Snopes’s founder and CEO, David Mikkelson, said he was unaware of any quarterly reports. In an interview, he also said he did not share Binkowski’s concerns about the Facebook partnership and said he felt it has had a minimal impact on how Snopes operates.

“Our work remains the same,” he said, adding that he did not expect Facebook to share data on how Snopes’s work is affecting other publishers. “It’s up to Facebook to decide the relative success of it.”

… help us protect independent journalism at a time when factual, trustworthy reporting is under threat by making a year-end gift to support The Guardian. We’re asking our US readers to help us raise one million dollars by the new year so that we can report on the stories that matter in 2019. Small or big, every contribution you give will help us reach our goal.

The Guardian’s editorial independence means that we can pursue difficult investigations, challenging the powerful and holding them to account. No one edits our editor and no one steers our opinion.

In 2018, The Guardian broke the story of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data breach; we recorded the human fallout from family separations; we charted the rise of the far right, and documented the growing impact of gun violence on Americans’ lives. We reported daily on climate change as a matter of urgent priority. It was readers’ support that made this work possible.

“Having an outsider’s perspective on America is refreshing. I like that you are constructive, critical and humorous… sometimes all in one article. The range of voices in your journalists is engaging and provoking. Your long reads and investigative articles are exceptional. I also like your environmental coverage, the opinions page, your arts page, interviews, and all the odd bits of life that other publications don’t cover. It was time I showed my support for your hard work, providing independent journalism with integrity.” – Luke, US 🇺🇸

We’re in this together – with your support we can keep exposing the truth. We hope to pass our goal by early January 2019. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported The Guardian so far. Please invest in our independent journalism today by making a year-end gift.

Paypal and credit card
Read the whole story
freeAgent
1 day ago
reply
As I was saying...
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Chicago Mayor Proposes Dealing Drugs, Gambling to Make Ends Meet

1 Share

Mayor Rahm EmanuelTired: Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring in 2011 that America shouldn't legalize drugs because "There is just too much money in it."

Wired: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel explaining that Chicago must legalize drugs because they need the tax revenue to keep from going bankrupt.

Today, Emanuel, who is going to be stepping down rather than seeking a third term in office, is giving a speech to Chicago's City Council calling for the state of Illinois to legalize marijuana and a casino in his city. It is not because the mayor suddenly developed an interest in the right of Chicago citizens to do what they want with their bodies and money. Rather, Chicago is financially collapsing under the weight of its pension obligations to city employees, and it needs revenue badly. It's already taxing just about everything else it can get its hands on. The Chicago Tribune explains:

The mayor will propose that any tax money the city receives from the legalization of recreational marijuana be dedicated entirely to pensions and he'll do the same for any taxes generated by a long-sought Chicago casino, according to sources familiar with Emanuel's speech who were not authorized to discuss his plans publicly. The mayor also will move forward with requesting that aldermen consider setting up the structure to issue pension obligation bonds to help reduce the amount of money the city owes the retirement funds in the near term, the sources said.

So the revenue Chicago brings in from marijuana sales or gambling won't be used to bolster resources, build infrastructure, or put more police or firefighters out on the streets. All that money would go entirely to trying to keep the city's annual budget from being overwhelmed by skyrocketing pension debts.

And even that might not be enough. The city is going to need $276 million in new revenue in 2020 and $310 million in 2022 in order to properly fund employee pensions. To be clear there, that's the new revenue they need to find on top of already existing commitments. By 2023, the city is going to be having to pay $2.1 billion into its pension funds altogether. Emanuel's proposed budget for 2019 is $10.67 billion.

One of the other ideas Emanuel is floating to try to keep Chicago's budget from collapsing is borrowing $10 billion in bonds, directing that money into the pension funds, and hoping the investment returns on the bonds outpace the interest rates on the debt. Which: yikes! This is very much in the vein of trying to use one credit card to pay for another credit card bill. The Chicago Times diplomatically observes that financial experts describe such a plan as "risky." Borrowing in order to pay its pension debts is one of the many reasons why Detroit ended up going bankrupt in 2013.

What really needs to happen to stabilize Chicago's budget is for the city to scale back pension benefits. To be fair to Emanuel, he's been trying to do just that, but Illinois' constitution has a provision that has made it legally impossible for Chicago (and any other municipality in the state) to scale back any public employee benefits once they've been offered. Some efforts to pull back on employee benefits to try to save money have been struck down by the state's Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Emanuel is therefore also proposing a change to the state's constitution to try to amend that clause to make it possible to scale pension benefits back before they bankrupt Chicago. His primary target appears to be a guaranteed annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase for retirees, even when inflation is non-existent and even when the city has to furlough or lay off working employees to balance the budget.

It's going to be a tough sell in a state where the public employee unions are essentially in charge. The amendment will require a three-fifths vote in the state's Democrat-controlled assembly. And then it goes to a public vote, and you better believe the state's public employee unions, who have fought tooth-and-nail against attempts to scale back retirement benefits, are going to mobilize.

Read the whole story
freeAgent
2 days ago
reply
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Bitcoin is not a bubble, by Scott Sumner

1 Comment

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that people tend to predict that Bitcoin is a bubble, and then later suggest that a subsequent price drop shows that it was a bubble. Thus lots of pundits said Bitcoin was a bubble when its price was at $30. Then when it was at $300, even more suggested that it was a bubble. Each time the price plunges they say “I told you so.”  Now the price of Bitcoin is over $3300, and even more people are saying it was a bubble.  Noah Smith has a new piece in Bloomberg:

Yep, Bitcoin Was a Bubble. And It Popped.

His main piece of evidence is that the price rose sharply and then fell sharply.  But that sort of price pattern also occurs in 100% efficient markets that are highly volatile because the fundamental value of the asset is hard to ascertain.  And if there ever was an asset with a value that is difficult to ascertain, it’s Bitcoin.  I have no clue as to what Bitcoin should be worth, and I doubt anyone else does either.

Bubble theories are only true if they are useful, and they are not useful.  The people who said it was a bubble at $30 were implicitly giving you advice not to buy.  Ditto for those who said it was a bubble at $300.  This advice was exceedingly non-useful; in fact if you followed the advice of bubble proponents you missed out on the opportunity to earn a massive profit investing in Bitcoin.  That’s why I don’t follow the advice of bubble theorists; it’s not useful.  BTW, I don’t own Bitcoin for unrelated reason; I prefer index stock (or bond) funds.

In any efficient asset market with an extremely volatile price, the current value of the asset will usually be far below the historical maximum price.  That’s equally true if bubbles don’t exist.  BTW, I define a bubble as a price that is clearly too high relative to fundamentals, and thus an asset with a poor expected return, based on rational analysis.  In fairness, Noah Smith defines it differently:

Formally, an asset bubble is just a rapid rise and abrupt crash in prices.

In the real world, the vast majority of times where people speak of bubbles they are using my definition, assuming market irrationality.  And it’s clear that while Smith’s definition of bubbles does not explicitly endorse market irrationality, he thinks they provide pretty strong evidence for that hypothesis:

Defenders of the efficient-market theory argue that these price movements are based on changes in investor’s beliefs about an asset’s true value. But it’s hard to identify a reason why any rational investor would have so abruptly revised her assessment of the long-term earnings power of companies in 1929, or the long-term viability of dot-com startups in 2000, or the long-term value of housing in 2007.

Actually there is very good reason why investors might have revised their expectations for future earnings in late 1929, we were entering the Great Depression.  But his point is valid for the 1987 stock crash.

Speaking of efficient markets, there’s another nail in the coffin of anti-EMH theories.  When I started blogging in early 2009, people pointed me to all sorts “anomalies”, which they believed show that markets are not efficient.  I’ve done many posts explaining how those theories have failed to do well in the period since I became aware of them.  Recently I learned of the failure of another anti-EMH theory that was provided to me back in early 2009—value stocks as a good investment:

Just to be clear, I understand that value stocks had an amazing run for quite a long while.  So did Bitcoin.  My point is that anti-EMH theories are not useful, because by the time you start trying to take advantage of them they are likely to stop working.  If that were not true then mutual funds based on highly robust anti-EMH theories would outperform index funds.

Market’s are amazingly efficient, and you’d be wise to base your life decisions on that assumption.  For instance, if someone insists that his investment fund consistently offers really high returns, year after year, and the returns seem uncorrelated with the broader market, that should raise a red flag. Otherwise you might find that the investment manager made off with your money.

In contrast, the SEC does not believe in the EMH, and ignored warnings about a fund with implausible returns, year after year.

(12 COMMENTS)
Read the whole story
freeAgent
2 days ago
reply
I get where he's going, but I would argue that Bitcoin was a bubble in 2017 since I believe that the price was actually inflated through massive fraud from Bitfinex and Tether that has yet to fully unravel. Sumner probably has not looked into Tether too deeply (or at all).
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Google will shut down Google+ four months early after second data leak

1 Share

Google+ has suffered another data leak, and Google has decided to shut down the consumer version of the social network four months earlier than it originally planned. Google+ will now close to consumers in April, rather than August. Additionally, API access to the network will shut down within the next 90 days.

According to Google, the new vulnerability impacted 52.5 million users, who could have had profile information like their name, email address, occupation, and age exposed to developers, even if their account was set to private. Apps could also access profile data that had been shared with a specific user, but was not shared publicly.

Continue reading…

Read the whole story
freeAgent
4 days ago
reply
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Ars Technica’s ultimate board game gift guide, 2018 edition

1 Comment

If there's one thing board gamers love more than playing games, it's buying them. And what better time of year to stock up on games for a loved one (or yourself) than the holidays? But with so many options coming out of a booming board game industry, narrowing down the choices can be a pain.

Friends, you're in the right place. Whether you're a board game newbie or someone who's been in the hobby for years, we've got something for everyone below. For 2018, we've updated our massive 10,000-word guide by adding new entries, deleting others, and generally just bringing things up to date with our current recommendations. Entries are organized generally into categories, so you can jump around to the stuff that interests you most (some games could arguably be included in several categories, of course).

If we've missed your go-to recommendations, be sure to share them in the comments below.

Read 183 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
freeAgent
4 days ago
reply
Lots of great stuff here.
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Cryptography failure leads to easy hacking for PlayStation Classic

1 Share
The PlayStation Classic's internal USB, removed and picked at as part of the hacking effort.

Enlarge / The PlayStation Classic's internal USB, removed and picked at as part of the hacking effort. (credit: Yifan Lu / Twitter)

In the days since the PlayStation Classic's official release, hackers have already made great progress in loading other PlayStation games (and even non-PlayStation software) onto the plug-and-play device. What's more, it seems some sloppy cryptography work on Sony's part is key to unlocking the device for other uses.

Console hackers yifanlu and madmonkey1907 were among those who were able to dump the PlayStation Classic's code via the system's UART serial port in the days after its release. From there, as yifanlu laid out on Twitter, the hackers found that the most sensitive parts of the system are signed and encrypted solely using a key that's embedded on the device itself, rather than with the aid of a private key held exclusively by Sony. In essence, Sony distributed the PlayStation Classic with the key to its own software lock hidden in the device itself.

Further examination by yifanlu during a series of marathon, Twitch-streamed hacking sessions found that the PlayStation Classic also doesn't seem to perform any sort of signature check at all for the sensitive bootrom code that's loaded when the system starts up. That makes it relatively trivial to load any sort of payload to the hardware from a USB device at startup, as yifanlu demonstrated with a video of a Crash Bandicoot prototype running on the PlayStation Classic last week.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read the whole story
freeAgent
4 days ago
reply
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories