back to article Being asked to rate fake news may help stop social media users sharing it, study finds

Research including a Twitter field experiment has found social media organisations might have a 3rd option that doesn't involve the banhammer or a laissez faire attitude to tackling the fake news plague infecting platforms. Sandwiched between an instinct for a less costly hands-off approach to information monitoring, and the …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Although misinformation is nothing new, the topic gained prominence in 2016 after the US Presidential Election and the UK's Brexit referendum, during which entirely fabricated stories (presented as legitimate news) received wide distribution via social media,"

    Yes, entirely fabricated stories presented as legitimate news happened well before that in whatever paper BoJo was writing for at the time.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Nah, there has never been a major journalist or major news show spreading fake news.

      Seriously, must I bring out Thomas Jefferson's famous quote on advantages of not reading the papers?

      Fake news has been around since long before the Republic. It was VERY well known to the authors of the US constitution, as well as the members of the first US congress, which proposed the First Amendment, and to the members of the state legislatures, which passed it.

      The purpose of the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of the press can only be honestly read as the right of the minority to loudly make statements which the majority would consider either to be lies or to be offensive. Statements accepted as true and unoffensive by the (current) majority need no such protection.

      Lying is basic to human nature. Get your big boy skeptic pants on.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        The purpose of the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of the press can only be honestly read as the right of the minority to loudly make statements which the majority would consider either to be lies or to be offensive. Statements accepted as true and unoffensive by the (current) majority need no such protection.

        Rubbish. Many people and corporations are all too happy to try to use the power of the state against any expression they dislike, regardless of the popularity of that expression. That's why we have anti-SLAPP statutes, and why we need better ones.

        And before some ninny posts myths like "the First Amendment only applies to Congress": if you think that, you're wrong. Courts have consistently held that the First applies when a private party attempts to use the power of the state to suppress (or compel) speech.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Gaming

    What happens when the reviewing process starts getting gamed? Either by Bots or by some faction who manages to pile a load of reviewers in under the radar.

    A sticky plaster at best....

    This is all the result of the friction of sharing communication being reduced to near zero. Our social and intellectual models haven't evolved to cope yet. Metaphorically we are still at the point of pointing and grunting on the plains of Africa as far as our ability to handle electronic communications is concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gaming

      The trick is to let people rate random news headlines. Whatever your pet conspiracy or fake news feed is, there will be more conspiracies and fake news feeds that you consider bogus.

      If you cannot predict what type of headline you will be asked to rate, you cannot team up to promote your pet fake new stories.

    2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Gaming

      The reviews themselves don't matter: just being asked to review something reminds people to consider accuracy in the next thing they see. According to this study, anyway.

      1. CrackedNoggin

        Re: Gaming

        Yes, that's the *claim*. However, like mice and ultrasound, they'll get over it quickly.

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Pointless.

    Can't speak to everyone, but I know a lot of sane minded people who previously used to enjoy using social media, but are now abandoning it for the right reasons. If that continues en masse then eventually it'll just leave the already toxic contingent in their own echo chamber marking their own homework... so to speak.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Pointless.

      The consequences of which simply leads to more extremism and delusion. See flat earth nuts.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pointless.

        In practical terms it depends on the actual numbers who quit and who stay.

      2. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Pointless.

        That's one of the reasons I deleted my Facebook account. The video feed in particular was full of crap such as flat-earth videos, covid deniers, anti-vaxers, creationists, soft porn, lame clickbait and general "Oh look at me" garbage. Facebook has become an open sewer of misinformation and floating turds.

        1. the Jim bloke
          Unhappy

          Re: Pointless.

          The purpose of social media was to make the internet accessible to the technologically ignorant.

          It has succeeded.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Re: Pointless.

            There seems to be a stray word in the first sentence of your post.

            1. the Jim bloke

              Re: Pointless.

              I usually say social media exists to keep stupid people away from the real internet.

              This is me practicing tact...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asking the people that consume fake news to rate it as fake news when they don't realise it's fake news. That's like asking the person that doesn't pick up their dog shit to look out for people not picking up their dog shit.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Getting people to read is difficult too

      Fake news spreaders are not being asked to rate fake news as fake. They are being asked to decide for themselves if carefully selected news is fake or real. The selection process discards partisan topics so there is a chance the fake news spreader will make a reasoned decision instead of an emotional response. The selection process also includes real news.

      The intention is to get the fake news spreader to firstly consider the possibility that some news could be fake and secondly to care about whether the news they are spreading is fake or real. The study shows some promise but does not handle all the possibilities. Some people knowingly spread fake news simply to get likes or up votes or to show they are a part of the a particular flock.

      This may seem like insanity but there are places where social inclusion depends on donating to the dominant religion and publicly disapproving of people who do not. It is why some people drive a different state to buy a COVID vaccination and then loudly refuse the free local vaccination.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Getting people to read is difficult too

        I understand that but the fake news spreader is going to spread it if they think it's real and report it as real so it defeats the purpose. The fact they are going to spread it anyway means they don't consider it to be fake in the first place. People are difficult to understand sometimes. I think it's a lack of critical thinking and most importantly common sense. I'm not perfect but I always verify news myself by using multiple sources.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Getting people to read is difficult too

          I think that the article was pointing out that most people share these social media posts without stopping to think whether they're fake or not. When they're prompted to consider whether a random headline or post is fake or not, they begin thinking before sharing other posts.

          I don't think this solution is designed to completely remove fake news, or to not be gamed at all. I think it's more designed to help modify people's behaviour by giving them a gentle nudge.

          You can't drag a horse anywhere, but you can gently steer it.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Getting people to read is difficult too

            > people share these social media posts without stopping to think whether they're fake or not. When they're prompted to consider whether a random headline or post is fake or not, they begin thinking

            I don't think it's a carelessness issue here. From observing people, I think it's totally accepted (albeit not always entirely conscious): People visit social media because they long for the feeling of belonging and the comforting echo chamber they represent, and in turn they will try to feed that comforting fireplace as well as they can. The truth of shared tidbits isn't very important compared to the message they convey: There is a "you scratch my bias, I'll scratch yours" kind of thing going on.

            Now when told to be more critical they'll just behave for a while, because they feel observed. It's like people driving past a police control. But that attempt at critical thinking will quickly fade, because mutual confirmation and the feeling of belonging is the very (only) reason they are there: You have to keep howling with the pack, because if you don't have a pack you're alone, and even potentially wrong!... (the horror!)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine until...

    People will start to rate messages from bbc.co.uk, .police.uk and .gov.uk as fake news.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Fine until...

      People will start to rate messages from bbc.co.uk, .police.uk and .gov.uk as fake news.

      Well, to be fair, the latter one has been getting less accurate since the early eighties, the middle one has been iffy on and off and the former isn't what it once was either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fine until...

      You don't class them as fake news sometimes? I'm not talking covid btw but some of the stuff they say is tenuous to say the least. The BBC during the last election was appallingly biased. Gov.uk loves to play with statistics and police.uk want to get paid to go out for drinks while spying on unsuspecting plebs.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Fine until...

      Actually, I read the BBC as an antidote to the shite American news, but I've been noticing BBC stories with mutating clickbait headlines.

      For example: "The Jamaican fruit that could kill you" links to an article titled "Ackee and saltfish: Jamaica’s breakfast of champions"

      Then there's more BBC "news" stories such as "How the 'nice guy' penalty hurts us all", "Is the nude selfie a new art form?", and "We went troll hunting in Iceland"

      Is this the BBC or The Sun?

    4. Stanislav Bonita

      Re: Fine until...

      > People will start to rate messages from bbc.co.uk, .police.uk and .gov.uk as fake news.

      And your problem with this is...?

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Nothing new today

    "False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing." - Joseph de Maistre (about 200 years ago)

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    'Fake News' is news the Establishment disapproves of; and a gateway to Censorship

    When old Trump initiated the term 'Fake News' it merely meant whatever he disagreed with; and then his opponents use it regarding his effusions.

    All any of them want to do is control the message and control the common people.

    .

    There are many --- MANY things and statements I disagree with [ from the slanders about Edward II, to the Baby in the Warming-Pan, to the modern era from all ( both ) the major parties in each state ] but whilst I would have been, and still should be, delighted if the utterers were strung up, I am not capable of deciding which statements should be 'allowed' and which on an abstract level are 'true'; and which should be suppressed to the common man.

    It is extraordinary that the proponents of alleged democracy don't simply trust the judgement of the masses. I don't, but then I don't believe in such a thing as desirable: they are devout believers in the Wisdom of the Peeple. If they want the ordinary person to be in charge of state policy, en masse, then they must accept that he and she are capable of discerning truth from falsehood and right from wrong, infallibly.

    .

    Does it matter if some people believe lies ? 'Twas ever thus.

    As with the Stasi tracking from the US State, and others; and War on Whistle-blowers, this is just another way to effect Bolshevik total thought-control in a way the Bolsheviks [ and Nazis ] could only envy helplessly.

    1. CrackedNoggin

      Re: 'Fake News' is news the Establishment disapproves of; and a gateway to Censorship

      And your great non-democratic solution is ..... Stalin? Mao? Trump won the election?

  8. osakajin Silver badge

    Remind me again of the difference between the tabloids and Twitter...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      People get paid to write for the tabloids.

      1. CrackedNoggin

        Think of the Influencers!

    2. hoola Silver badge

      It is possible to take a tabloid to court and have slightly more chance of winning that Facebook or Twitter.

      I grant you it is not much of a chance but there is some regulation and accountability. If the tabloids do go too far they have been hauled in.

  9. AMBxx Silver badge
    Big Brother

    We need

    A Ministry of Truth

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: We need

      Four downvoters didn't get the 1984 reference, despite the Big Brother icon.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: We need

        I need to be less subtle next time!

  10. DS999

    Its obvious why people share fake news

    If it fits their political biases, then it very likely fits the political biases of the majority of their followers. So they get "likes" from it. Most people only post/share things in pursuit of likes.

    If Facebook hid the number of likes/etc. from everyone from the person who made the post, so it wasn't seen as some sort of junior high popularity contest, I'll bet a lot less crap would be shared. But that would destroy Facebook's business model, they want people addicted to the drug of getting "likes" and having their friends see how many they get.

  11. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Unfortunately EL Reg is guilty of showing the number of votes up or down on the comments section which is very similar to FB likes and perhaps this encourages some people to tailor their responses to fit in with what others have written for fear of getting down voted?

    Personally though I write how I feel on a subject and if others don't agree then that is their right to do so.

    1. LionelB

      Sincere apologies, but I just downvoted you even though I agree with you. Just wanted to know what it felt like. Is this normal?

  12. Tron

    A stranger wishes you to rate their sink.

    Draconian laws are not being prepared to stop misinformation. Misinformation is being exploited as an excuse to implement draconian laws.

    The most prominent producers of misinformation are politicians, the majority of whom go on to lie to us for their term in office.

    Re: Covid. The anti-vaxxers are loud but have a very limited effect. Enough people will go for a vaccination to support herd immunity, whatever their views, because they want to go on holiday again.

    Incidentally, good science, like a good democracy, needs dissidents. Thalidomide being a case in point.

    Do people really do things because they get messages from strangers asking them to? Hardly wise.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: A stranger wishes you to rate their sink.

      > good science, like a good democracy, needs good dissidents

      Here, fixed it for you.

      Because bad dissidents are just an excuse to cull divergent thinking.

  13. david1024
    Pint

    Crowdsource?

    Is this article really trying to push that crowdsourcing won't be a bad idea for a censorship on a platform? Even though only majority accepted views will be allowed? Even if that majority is a pile of 'bots or hired piles of iPhones?

    It'll be cheap, but it won't work. But maybe it doesn't have to be effective... Maybe it'll just force everyone to the next platform. So we can start again.

  14. the Jim bloke
    Holmes

    The system needs a further step.

    First, people are required to rate any article as part of the sharing process - not familiar with the terminology as the whole social media environment looks like a stupid idea to start with.

    THEN, their rating can be rated relative to a professional fact checking organisation, and the USER gets a reliability score, which is shown alongside their online identity as appropriate.

    So supporters of online quackery, political fairy tales and magical thinking get to wear the digital equivalent of a dunce cap (something totally unacceptable by modern cultural norms - which might be why we have so many who need it)

  15. CrackedNoggin

    Proposal - Require 10 random people to unanimously OK every forwarded piece of news. The only thing that will get through are cat videos - it will be enough for FB to _just_ get by.

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