Seattle Times Live Wire Event: Fact vs Fake
Last week I attended the “Fact vs Fake” event (https://livewire.seattletimes.com/event/fact-vs-fake/) organized by Seattle Times at the UW. Fake news is a very serious topic so I thought I should write down my main takeaways from it:
– Good principle to follow: “Think more, share less.”
– “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
– BS Asymmetry Principle: “The amount of energy necessary to refute BS is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.” (Not to mention that fantasy is more profitable than reality. Which explains why we are swimming in fake news.)
– Please pay for your news. (Free news is far more likely to be fake.)
– National news is doing ok, but local news is hurting. So preferably pay for local news over national. (Understandable that Seattle Times says that. Which brings me to the next point:)
– When you see a piece of news, ask: Who is telling me this? How do they know? What’s in it for them?
– UW has a very popular course: “Calling Bullshit” (http://callingbullshit.org/).
– They are interested in making their material available to high school teachers and others to create such courses for their students.
– Delip Rao has a “fake news challenge”. (http://www.fakenewschallenge.org/) It has no funding but still has hundreds of people collaborating. That is how important everyone thinks this work is.
– We need a new “reaction” for Facebook posts (similar to like / love / angry etc.): “I have read this” or “I have read this and agree with it”.
– (My personal pet peeve: I see a lot of people saying “forwarding as received”, particularly on Whatsap, as if that absolves you of spreading fake news. To me, that sounds like you don’t really care whether I continue to trust you or not. This is one of the main reasons I don’t use Whatsap.)
– Apparently, a lot of people are thinking of Twitter as a “source”. Twitter is essentially the truck that delivers your news. Not the source. (Don’t trust the truck.)
– A lot of students get told: Don’t use Wikipedia as a source. So they go and use sources even less reputable than Wikipedia!
– Most social media platforms create a “trust model” for their users. (Which means your posts might get prioritized based on that. So be careful before you share untrustworthy stuff.)
– The only way we are going to win this fight is by people becoming smarter consumers of news, in addition to news publishers and distributors becoming smarter about it.
– On the downside, the vast majority of people attending the event were in their 60’s or older. This is interesting, even accepting the fact that school hasn’t started yet so the number of students on campus is very low.