Social Networks Can Learn from Apple to Solve ‘Fake News’

2 minute read
| Editorial

The heated U.S. election campaign that saw Donald Trump elected 45th President of the United States raised many issues. A critically important one was the growing proliferation of fake news online. Both sides shared increasingly bizarre, heavily partisan, fake news stories during the fraught campaign. They fueled conspiracy theories on a variety of baseless issues . They were fed in part by social media, and social networking companies seem to have no idea how to respond.

Social media apps on iPhone

The issue is that the  brilliantly clever algorithms that power the likes of Facebook and others cannot differentiate fact from fiction the way humans can. As a result, false and even dangerous stories have often gone viral. People are demanding an explanation from the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but few have been forthcoming so far.

Discussions about how to solve this problem will no doubt continue. Interestingly, Apple is actually in a better position than many of its Silicon Valley competitors to overcome the issue of fake news.

The Whole Widget

Apple has been criticized over the years for building a closed hardware and software ecosystem. This approach has some disadvantages, but Apple’s control-freak tendencies have brought some editorial rigor to Apple News. The company built partnerships with top publishers, pulling together content from high quality, established news sources. Apple News does not rely on shares and things going viral. By curating stories from top outlets it has greatly reduced the possibility of Apple News spreading nonsense.

Social networks do a brilliant job of bringing us content we like, as well as content we will probably like, but haven’t yet discovered. The problem is that algorithms cannot fact check or rebut inaccuracies like humans can. Algorithms do not have that editor’s instinct that a story just does’t feel right. The consequences of this can be devastating. A falsehood can spread in an instant, taking hold before it can be countered.

Learning from Apple to Counter Fake News

Can social media companies learn from Apple’s heavily curated approach? Apple’s model means that most Apple News content will have gone through a proper editorial process. To that end, The Washington Post’s esteemed media columnist Margaret Sullivan said that Facebook “should hire a top-flight executive editor and give that person the resources, power and staff to make sound editorial decisions.”

While wanting to deal with this issue, social networks will rightly be wary of losing their defining qualities of openness and sharing. Apple is essentially defined by the opposite qualities, but it means the company is better placed to stem the tide of fake news.

But, Apple’s approach only benefits Apple users—or more specifically, the subset of Apple customers interested in this issue. Until social media companies borrow a page from Apple or find their own way to solving this problem, the scourge of fake news will remain.

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Adam Christianson

One thing that bothers a bit about this whole “fake news” dust up is that Facebook is a “social” network and not a news outlet. They never claimed to be a “news” outlet beyond making the mistake of calling your main feed a “News” feed. It’s really, “crap your buddies are linking to”. What’s being “shared” by your “friends” is not news and never has been. Here’s some “news”, your “friends” have a political bias and will share almost anything they think fits their bias on social media without considering the consequences or probably even reading the article. Oh, and… Read more »

JustCause
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JustCause

Check jackadoodle voted for Trump.

Lee Dronick
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Lee Dronick

Click like and share if you agree, 99% won’t only 1% will.

jackadoodle
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jackadoodle

I think of some big stories from recent months and years: – Brian Williams being caught lying about his helicopter adventures. – Dan Rather being caught lying in his reports about Bush’s draft service. – Reddit CEO caught editing posts by Trump supporters – Rolling Stone magazine reporter lying about rape accusations – CNN’s Dona Brazile giving debate questions to Hillary Clinton Not to mention the bias and false claims in so many other stories. It seems we are in very tough times. As for Apple, I have turned off Siri’s new suggestions because of their bias. With the Rolling… Read more »