By hiding hoaxes, Facebook hovers between publisher and platform

If you’re driven bonkers by the fake viral news stories that proliferate on your Facebook feed, usually posted by that girl you went to high school or your excitable uncle in Vermont, it’s your lucky day. Instead of you having to be that jerk who comments with the Snopes retraction, Facebook will start weeding out fake posts itself. Kind of.

The company has altered its algorithm so that hoaxes and scams appear less in people’s feeds, which ultimately limits their spread.

Facebook is crowdsourcing the determination of what counts as a “fake” news story. It added a flagging button that allows users to report whether a story is fake. It’s algorithm will also collect information on which stories people are deleting after posting, since that’s an indicator of a hoax. In addition to lessening a scam’s appearance in people’s feeds, Facebook will occasionally stick a warning sentence on top of the post.

It was quick to say it wasn’t asserting any editorial control. “We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy,” a Facebook product manager wrote in the blog post announcing the change.

What’s the difference between editorial judgment and newsfeed algorithm judgment? In a day and age when we get our content increasingly from Facebook’s newsfeed instead of newspapers or website home pages, they’re arguably coalescing. Like it or not, the company has become the number one social director of traffic.

Although Facebook may just be aggregating content created by others, it’s acting in an editorial role by making the decision that fake news isn’t as valuable as real news. It’s just putting its algorithm — and users — in charge of the editorial execution. Facebook, like Medium, is playing with the gray area between platform and publisher.

It claims that satire websites will be spared Facebook’s newsfeed wrath because people are less likely to report them as hoaxes or delete their articles after sharing them. But as Mike Isaac mentioned on Twitter, the people Facebook is relying on for this judgment are the same population whose favorite passwords are “password” and “123456.”

Facebook data scientists predict total Princeton depletion within 7 years

The Princeton research that used a disease model to suggest Facebook(s fb) would lose 80 percent of its users in 3 years deserved the hammering it got – it’s simply a bad analogy for the subject. But now a bunch of data scientists from Facebook itself have stepped up to the plate, dryly using the researchers’ own methodology to prove that Princeton enrollment will have depleted entirely by 2021, and the air around us by 2060. Luckily I’m done with my studies, but I’m pretty annoyed about the breathing thing. Damn you, badly-chosen search data and your extrapolations!

“Mapple” Lampoons the Cupertino Faithful on The Simpsons

Apple fans found their beloved company satirized Simpsons-style last night. The latest installment of the Fox cartoon featured a “Mapple” store in the beginning of the episode, a tech store where hip, young t-shirted employees take brand loyalty very seriously and display an inordinate amount of devotion to their bespectacled leader. Sound familiar?

The Mapple Store bears an uncanny resemblance to the 5th Avenue Apple Store, with the exception of being in Springfield’s Mall and not New York City. Lisa is amazed at the MyPods, MyPhones, and the Braniac Bar, where smug customer service representatives deal with Comic Book Guy’s complaints about the latest Mapple OS. Homer is intrigued by the dream-fueled, imagination-powered MyCube, whose function isn’t entirely clear, and which glows to show you that it’s not on.
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Karina’s Capsule: Braxton Price

Show me a circa-2008 satiric political web video, and I’ll show you well-meaning liberal media makers who, more likely than not, haven’t had much contact with real people (as in, not TV talking heads or vitriolic blog commenters) who represent the opposite side of the political spectrum and almost certainly have never seriously considered even a moderate Republican point of view as potentially legitimate.

This is something I think we all know about the current new media landscape, and so when confronting new works of political media art, much of the work of analysis is automatic. It’s a video about Obama? It’s probably an unquestioning celebration of style over substance. It’s a video about McCain? It’s probably kitsch-wrapped critique.

But there’s something that seems just a little bit more complex about Braxton Price: The Price of Freedom. Produced by and described as a “partly scripted/mostly improvised single-camera political comedy show,” Braxton stars creator Aaron Nauta as a young robo-Republican hired by the fictional National Federation of Young Republicans to host a web show-within-the show “that makes conservative ideals cool again — and also debunks loony liberal logic.”

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Karina’s Capsule: Here Comes McCain Again

Were you as surprised as I was that so many people even questioned whether the first McCain Girls video was an earnest effort by genuine supporters? I was amazed that some people even went as far as to suggest that it was paid for or produced by the campaign itself.

I know the jury’s still out as to whether or not the Republican candidate has the pop cultural savvy to be our commander in chief (Was that whole “Heidi Montag is a talented actress” comment made out of utter cluelessness, or was it a knowing wink at the construction of her pseudo-reality show, The Hills?) but McCain seems smart enough to generally play away from his known weaknesses.

Plus, It’s Raining McCain simply looked too good. From the hundreds of little McCains that rained on the Girls to a green-screen gaffe caused by a certain costume, the video’s very badness had a rhythm to it that was clearly intentional. But if any doubt remains that McCain Girls is something between pure parody and Obama Girl-style, cable news-baiting performance art, the Girls’ latest video should clear that up.

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