Lunching with Zuck: Why Facebook Still Doesn't Deserve Trust - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Lunching with Zuck: Why Facebook Still Doesn’t Deserve Trust
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All due respect to the conservative media types who had fun discussing neat tech stuff and eating yummy food with Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, but this is the kind of thing I was talking about regarding Structural Bias:

Actress Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle) posted a simple, pro-life message on social media that caught a lot of attention and went viral on Twitter and Facebook. It became so popular that it became the top trending story on Facebook Thursday morning.

Only look how the editors at Facebook characterized the message:

Screenshot (30)

 

Not “Support Life” but “Anti-Abortion”.

The academy, the arts and the media support, unquestioningly, a point of view. Every topic is framed from the leftist premise.

I really wish our side wasn’t so easily bought in the name of getting along. It should take more than a conversation and bowl of soup.

A note about the straw man Glenn Beck started on fire:

I accept the possibility there may be evidence that Facebook — or said more clearly, someone or even multiple people who work for Facebook — may have done something that skewed the output in some way to game the system. But so far, I have not seen that evidence. And we looked for it. There are people at my company who understand this stuff far better than I do and they haven’t seen that evidence.

Huh. They haven’t seen the evidence? Of course they haven’t seen the evidence because the data isn’t open. All evidence is circumstantial. That is, there is statistical evidence just based on odds–numbers of stories, seeing what’s trending elsewhere, seeing how trending topics are manipulated from friend to friend– that it’s biased. It’s not likely that nearly 100% of Facebook Trending Topics are liberal when nearly 50% of it’s American users are conservative.

That’s not hard proof, of course. There can’t be hard proof because we don’t have the numbers. All we have are the direct reports from former employees, internal documents, anecdotal evidence, and statistical support for the theory. It’s a pretty darn solid theory. [Read more here.]

Perhaps the people in the room with Zuckerberg were sounding like social justice advocates. Well, when it comes to power differentials, the left owns the media and the digital world. I would be kinder to these folks but their pervasive influence shapes not just what we see but what we don’t see.

And that wouldn’t bother me so much either (it is a free country after all), except that guys like Zuck and the Google’s Eric Schmidt are more than cosy with political power. They fuel political power–on the left. Always on the Left.

I remember back when Facebook really started ramping up, there were those on the right who feared that power. FreedomWorks, the activist organization, created their own social media group for activists to plan and discuss ideas together without fear of filtration. It seemed to me to be unnecessary. Working within platforms that were better and reached more people seemed like the prudent idea. I still believe it is a better idea–if the ideas are being fairly shared.

If no one sees conservative stories or they’re quashed by the all-seeing Facebook eye, what’s the point of even being on Facebook?

So, what are some solutions to the dilemma of a private organization that wields such enormous power that it causes widespread distrust amongst half of their users because of perceived bias? Truly, if the right-sided Facebook users bailed, Facebook would be losing the majority of their money-makers. This is true in other media. So, keeping their core consumers happy should be job number one. How to do it?

  1. Name your editors. This media site has an editor and it’s not a secret. If you, dear reader, have a beef, you can take it up the editorial chain of command. You can’t do that with Facebook or Google or Twitter.
  2. Create a page of the Top 100 Trends, un-curated, 100% algorithmically organic. It would be like Spotify’s lists of music trends. Why not do this with news? Because there’s bad stuff that trends? Well, of course there’s bad stuff that trends. Have you met the internet? It’s filled with awful people. But why does that matter? Trust your consumers. There is no time or space limit on Facebook. It’s not like the 30 minute news hour. The web has plenty of room to display this list.
  3. Open source the algorithm. Let people fool with it and make their own lists their own way.  Smart people will figure out better ways to cull the news and then let people have plugins of the curation systems they prefer. Facebook could still use their own curation as a default.

If Facebook isn’t willing to do this, some smart developers should scour Facebook and Google and Twitter and create a super curator that’s 100% algorithmically based. They’d make a ton of money doing it.

New media users are upset by Facebook and Google and Twitter manipulating the news because part of technology’s promise was eliminating that bias. Now, we find out what we suspected: Humans are still pulling Pinocchio’s strings. We thought that data driven technology would be a real boy by now. It’s not, not by a long shot.

For now, biased humans are prejudicing every piece of news consumed everywhere. The internet was supposed to do what Television, Newspapers and print Magazines could not: deliver data without human interference. It’s likely that day will never happen.

To read more about Structural Bias go here.

Melissa Mackenzie
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Melissa Mackenzie is Publisher of The American Spectator. Melissa commentates for the BBC and has appeared on Fox. Her work has been featured at The Guardian, PJ Media, and was a front page contributor to RedState. Melissa commutes from Houston, Texas to Alexandria, VA. She lives in Houston with her two sons, one daughter, and two diva rescue cats. You can follow Ms. Mackenzie on Twitter: @MelissaTweets.
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