Author and journalism professor Dan Gillmor recently described a future in which “we will be living in the ecosystem of a company that has repeatedly demonstrated its untrustworthiness, an enterprise that would become the primary newsstand for journalism and would be free to pick the winners via special deals with media people and tweaks of its opaque algorithms. If this is the future, we are truly screwed.”
In addition to the economic threat it represents to media companies, Facebook also arguably poses a threat to journalism itself. Into this bucket we can throw things like fake news and misinformation, which works primarily because Facebook focuses on engagement—time spent, clicks, and sharing—rather than quality or value.
In many ways, sociologists say, Facebook is a machine designed to encourage confirmation bias, which is the human desire to believe things that confirm our existing beliefs, even if they are untrue. As a former Facebook product manager wrote in a Facebook post: “The news feed optimizes for engagement, [and] bullshit is highly engaging.” [Continue reading…]