Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Actually all news and politics is "disputed"

The world is a big place where people have profound disagreements about the way things should work. We try to resolve this as best as possible by fostering open societies and democratic forms of government. But that's pretty much the best we can do as far as system design is concerned.  The rest is up to us to work out through constant argument and struggle.  Because, again, different groups of people have vastly different ideas and interests to look out for.

We should expect a healthy democracy and "public discourse" over such differences to be contentious and passionate. I would be highly suspicious of a multi-billion dollar business asserting its obligation to "tamp down" on that.
The "disputed" tag is part of Facebook's grand plan to crack down on fake news as the company tries to tamp down the controversy over its role in the spread of misinformation that sharpened political divisions and inflamed discourse during and after the presidential election.
Ideally election time should be marked by "sharpened political divisions and inflamed discourse."  The alternative to that is apathy and/or suppression.  So there's no secret formula or algorithm that can.. or even should.. make it go away. Anyone who tells you different is either still in the fifth grade or, more likely, is lying in order to tilt the playing field to their advantage. Here's Tom Frank.
Yes, I know, the web is a wild west sort of place, with fake news lurking in every corner. But follow our prestige media for a while and you will start to notice an uncanny unanimity of opinion. From TED talks to NPR, from the DNC to the Washington Post and on to the award-winning blogs, they all agree with each other, echoing and quoting and linking back and forth in a happy conversation, all the comfortable insiders welcoming one another with praise and prizes. What they don’t agree upon, meanwhile, is simply ignored. It is outside the conversation. It is excluded.

A world without fake news might really be awesome. So might a shop where every bottle of wine is excellent. So might an electoral system in which everyone heeds the urging of the professional consensus. But in any such system, reader, people like you and me can be assured with almost perfect confidence that our voices will be curated out.

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