We are awash in a sewer of fake news stories, and we only have ourselves to blame. It has become an epidemic, and a profitable one at that for these purveyors of click-bait that sound like the truth but are far from it. In this episode, Paul and David discuss why this has happened, who are the players who profit from these stories, and what the major web operators such as Google and Facebook can do about it.
We refer to several stories that show the problem first-hand: a piece that ran on NPR’s All Things Considered found one fake news operator who manages to make a solid living (think $120k per year, at a minimum) who operates out of his suburban SoCal home. His name is Jestin Coler and he is the founder and CEO of a company called Disinfomedia. His stock-in-trade is typo-squatted domains such as the Denver Guardian, which look like legit newspapers. He says he got into fake news around 2013 to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right, even though he is more liberal-leaning.
The New York Times has also met with fake news purveyors, and it tracks the progress of a viral fake news item in this piece. Facebook CEO Zuckerberg wrote this piece about what Facebook’s responsibility should be, but Paul and David agree that it is everyone’s task to be a bit more discerning, and take a moment to think about what you’ve just read before you share it with your entire social clan.
One solution is a better mousetrap, so to speak. These computer science undergrads took a weekend at a Princeton hackathon and coded up a Chrome browser plug-in that would allow easier commenting and identifying a fake item. Kudos to them!
In that vein, John Borthwick and Jeff Jarvis posted this extensive list of recommendations on Medium of what each of us can do to take charge and try to stop the fakers. It will take a village to lessen the flow of the fakers.