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tv   Discussion Focuses on Fake News  CSPAN  March 5, 2017 5:20am-7:00am EST

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now, have somebody check your pulse. >> now for the next order of business, really the purpose of why we had these presentations this morning -- i want you to walk the halls of congress, see your two senators visit your , representative. if they are not available, speak with their staff. tell them about some of the issues you heard discussed today. bring them the legislative priorities of the american legion. leave the drop sheet behind for them to use throughout the year. please keep your conversations professional, courteous, and nonpartisan. you may not agree with the views expressed by your members of congress. but you are there as a representative of our organization. we are all about policies, not personalities. be sure you thank them for the work they have done on issues that are important to us. and try to some gentle and polite persuasion when discussing issues which they don't agree with us.
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remember, as you walk the capitol hill, that you are building on the legacies of those who walked those halls before us. and you are starting a new legacy that we are building for future veterans. so carry that legacy forward. thank you for all you do, day in and day out, month after month, and year after year. god bless you, and may god bless our country, the united states of america. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> in case you missed it, here are some clips of c-span's programming this last week. joe biden.ent >> i have been covered by the best in the business and some of the worst. some of you press guys who are lousy, just like some senators who are lousy, doctors are lousy, lawyers are lousy. but it does not matter.
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we should never challenge the basic truth that an independent and free press is a fundamental element in functioning of our democracy. >> kevin mccarthy on the affordable care act. >> we watched in the aca, they provided more than $2 billion. 18 of those 23 co-ops have collapsed. the last six years, we have been holding hearings. we have been listening to the public and working on this bill. >> olympic gold medalist michael phelps on ways to improve the international anti-doping system. >> i do not believe i stood up at international competition and the rest of the field has been clean. i do not believe that. i do not think i have ever felt that. i know when i stand up in the u.s., i know we are all clean. the cause we are going through the same thing. we are doing all of that stuff.
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terms ofk for me, in internationally, i think there has to be something done, and it has to be done now. >> representative jason chaffetz chairing a hearing on transparency. >> you rely on guidance from the department, and you will have hold -- withhold that information from congress? >> to my knowledge, the guidance is not in writing. we are working to get -- >> wait a minute. you just made this up? it is not in writing? >> it is a standard practice -- >> no, it is not. is this a standard practice? >> no, it is not. there is no attorney claim for when one government agency investigate another. >> senator bernie sanders on the trump administration. >> we have struggled, from the inception of this country, the fight against racism, the fight against sexism, the fight against xenophobia and
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homophobia, and we are telling mr. trump and his friends, loudly and clearly, we are not going backwards. we are going forwards. >> senator marco rubio a hearing on financial fraud targeting senior citizens. >> if you look at the list of the top most wanted medicare fraudsters in america, they are almost entirely from south florida and almost entirely recent arrivals from cuba. to arreste are about them, they leave to cuba. it is an outrage. it has been extensively covered by the press. >> all c-span programs are available on c-span.org, on our homepage, and by searching the video library. next, a look at so-called "fake news" and its effect on consumers and the media.
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this discussion from the university of california berkeley includes the founder of craigslist and the person in charge of facebook's newsfeed. this is an hour and a half. >> let me welcome the panelists. we have a distinguished panel. we have, right here to my left, the first panelist here is laura sydell. she is a well-known voice on national public radio. i hope many of you heard or will listen to her amazing story on disinfomedia, one of the stories that really brought this issue
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to light in my mind. she tracked down a company with many fake news sites. that aired for the first time last september and has been viewed many times since. adam mosseri, we are very happy to have someone high up with the newsfeed of facebook. adam manages the team responsible for delivering relevant content, news content, to all those facebook users. recently, facebook has taken some important steps to address the problem of fake news on their platform. we are delighted to have his presence. we have craig newmark with us. craig is a web pioneer, the founder of craigslist. he is a speaker and a philanthropist who often introduces himself modestly as a news consumer. and can also claim to be one of the internet's best-known nerds. but -- all of this comes right out from his own self-description. but he recently generously donated $1 million to the poynter institute to promote
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the efficacious in, fact checking, and accountability in journalism. as much as anyone i know, craig has taken steps to address the problem. and, we're joined by two members of the uc berkeley faculty as well. catherine crump is a law school professor, and she is the codirector of berkeley law's samuelson law, technology, and public policy clinic. she specializes in first and fourth amendment and media issues, all about censorship and what you can and cannot do. jeffrey mackie-mason is uc-berkeley's university librarian and a professor at the school of information. he focuses on online behavior, and digital information creation and distribution. finally, our moderator is dean ed wasserman. he is a professor and dean of
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the graduate school of journalism, and his specialty is media ethics. he blogs, perhaps a very appropriately titled blog called "unsocial media." you can find it at ewasserman.co m. i want to thank you, the audience, for your interest in this topic. ed: thank you, deirdre, and thank you all for coming out tonight on this chilly evening. [applause] ed: i want to also welcome a number of reporters and the audience from reuters, "new york guardian," and "the daily californian." we have a strong interdisciplinary panel here tonight, and thank you all for participating. the format -- we have roughly an hour and a half to play with. i figured we would divide it approximately in half. spend 45 minutes with a discussion can find to the panel. i am looking -- hoping for a
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lively discussion, not necessarily an orderly one. talk tore welcome to each other, interrupt each other , and to move the conversation along. i will be tossing out questions and goading you when i am not happy with your answers. then, after 45 minutes or so, we will open the floor to questions. opening the floor, as was observed at a top-tier not long ago, is always a troubling concept in seismically active california. [laughter] let me kick this off with an opening thought. i was thinking back to when i was getting interested in the media -- and this was late 1960's, early 1970's -- there was a great deal of very excited and very much utopian talk about the world of democratized discourse that the media would enable.
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if you had told me then, that 40, 50 years hence, i would have this device that would give me access to bigger audiences than the widest circulating newspaper on earth had and would give me more access to more information than the best sourced reporter on earth had, i would say, that sounds like paradise. that sounds like what would be a democratized communications sphere looks like, where people are enabled. instead, here we are. we are finding that there is a dark underside to that. we are finding, when we look around, that more people believe things that are not true than perhaps ever before, and more people are acting on beliefs that they either misunderstand
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or understand aren't true than ever before. we find that this wondrous world, the technologically enabled communications paradise, has now turned around and is biting itself in the backside. let me start by asking -- and we are finding more people than ever enthralled by the shadows on the cave. what do we do? let me start with this question. i will invite laura sydell to weigh in on it to get started. fake news has become a big, messy topic. there is not much agreement on what it is. it is being brandished as an all-purpose slogan to describe everything from errors to deliberate falsehoods. it is no longer agreed upon as identifying a unitary phenomenon. what conclusions can we draw about the way the term is now being fought over and the
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elastic way it is being applied? laura: i guess i want to say there is a difference of intent. there is a big difference. people who are in the fake news business, they know what they are doing. they know it is fake. as opposed to a journalist who is trying to get it right makes a mistake. i would argue, for example, some people say that judith miller's reporting on the weapons of mass destruction was fake news. it wasn't. she made a horrible mistake. but the guy that deirdre mentioned, this is fake news, and it is very profitable. we decided we would take one story within a meeting and i got the assignment to take one story and trace it all the way back. one fake news story that got a lot of attention. in this case, it was the story of an fbi agent dead in an
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apparent murder suicide, and supposedly this fbi agent had been investigating hillary clinton's emails. it the implication was that was in connection to -- if you know something about the alt-right conspiracy theories about the clintons, they murder people often. this appeared on a site called "the denver guardian, which -- site called "the denver guardian" which appears to be a reputable site but is not. it was initially not that easy to find, because usually you can go to godaddy, and discover that there is a website, somebody owns the domain name. i hired somebody to basically look at the internet a bit like a paleontologist. he was looking for fossils. he was eventually able to get me a name and address. i decided the best thing to do is go knock on his door. it turned out he was in
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huntington beach, california. i had no idea what we would find. i took a male intern with me because i was a little nervous. we went to his door and there he was. coler.e was justin i knocked on the door and said, "did you write this?" he said, "no." he closed the door in our faces. it turns out he is an npr fan. seriously. he gets back to us and says, all right, i will talk to you. yes, i do own the " denver guardian" website. he absolutely knew he was doing fake news. in his case, he was a hillary clinton supporter, too. he said he started this whole
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thing as kind of a joke. he wanted to show how crazy the alt-right was and how easy it was to spread fake news in the alt-right echo chamber. however, as i did point out to him, it was lucrative. he told me he was making between $10,000 and $30,000 a month. he had a whole little empire -- it was not just this. he had a whole bunch of other websites, too, where he was putting this stuff out there. it was absolutely intentional. everything about that denver guardian story was totally false , and we knew it was totally false. that is fake news. i really do think there is a big difference between a reporter making a mistake, and what this gentleman was doing. lastly, on this topic, i would say that i feel like one of the things that is going on is a sense of wanting to make everybody confused. i think that works in some people's advantage, to have the world be confusing.
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i have heard people talk about steve bannon's interest in certain far right groups in europe and russia who do use this tactic. it is a political tactic. so, i am not saying he is, but i think it is something to think about. about? fake news what is its intent? ed: i want to come back to how you make money with fake news. first, you have identified a clear case of deliberate fabrication. everybody can agree it is fake. but the term is being applied more broadly for an underlying dissatisfaction with the quality and trustworthiness of information people are getting. it is playing to the political arena in somewhat unforeseen ways. i wonder what sense we make of that?
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jeffrey? jeffrey: i don't disagree with what she said, but i would say it is more about information distribution and people wanting to get information out there as providers and people wanting to take information as consumers. it is often useful to think about quality. there is high-quality news, low-quality news or information. it is a spectrum. there is some negative quality news. there are some situations where people are intentionally manipulating. even then, there is a little bit more nuanced. in the case you just described, it was a lark, and he was making money on it. it didn't sound like he was trying to persuade people to change behavior. but sometimes, people are trying to manipulate. they are using fraud to manipulate. there is a malevolent intent. we think of it, especially if you are a platform provider, you care about the quality of the news or the information that is
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being distributed on your platform. you want more good quality, because you want more people to come to your platform, and you want less bad quality. that spectrum is hard to draw any lines on. sometimes platform providers want different things with their consumers. some are in it for the money. they just want eyeballs, and as long as they can attract eyeballs, they are selling those to advertisers. on the other hand, they want repeat eyeballs. they care about reputation. if they keep delivering bad information, they will not get repeat eyeballs. in thinking about how to design systems and understand behavior in this business, first i like to think about it as a spectrum of quality with certain special cases where sometimes it is not just low-quality but negative or malicious quality. ed: you are not suggesting it is quality that is driving the traffic? jeffrey: to some extent. people want the information for different reasons. some people just want information for entertainment.
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in that case, they might want something that is actually fake. it might find it amusing. i think, in repeated use, there is a correlation between quality and what is driving the traffic. people are going to recognize that certain sources are more reliable than others. the content provider wants to develop a significant business and keep that business going will care about that quality. >> just to interject one thing, what -- part of the problem is facebook. it is an environment where you're looking at all kind of things that your friends share. it is not the same as going to the new york times website or going to breitbart. you are in an environment that feels comfortable and safe. i did not mean that as a total criticism, but it is part of the issue. they are not going to all this -- all these separate, credible publications.
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going to stand up for the platforms. i am just acting as a news consumer. i just want to have news i can trust. these are tough problems. one part of it is trolling and harassment. i have been trying to deal with that on a professional basis for 20 years. platforms have been taking steps to address this. it is just really tough. facebook is working with the international fact checking network and are trying to work with people who are signatories to the agreement such as p olitofact and snopes. google is working with the trust project, which is about means by which news organizations can say, here is what is trustworthy behavior. it is about having a code of ethics and being serious about it. i've spoken with twitter directly about the problem of dealing with trolling and harassment. these are really tough problems.
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the platforms are standing up to them. hopefully, in the near future, i will be able to announce with wikipedia new steps and funding to deal with harassment and trolling. the platforms are standing up, but these are really old, tough problems to deal with. last week, somebody reminded me of a fake news attack from a octavian who faked something from mark antony because he wanted to raise support to go after mark antony and cleopatra. you also want to be quiet about how you talk about it, because when you talk about technique, the bad guys are listening to what you are saying. you will see it pop up in black hat discussion boards. you don't want to leak stuff until you are ready to do something.
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ed: i take your point that it is not new. but what has changed? in 2004, we had the swiftboat versus the bush national guard story. both were stories that had some factual basis. they were important. they were fiercely disputed -- the veracity was disputed. each side accused the other of proffering phony, fake news. what has changed now? what is different in the news environment now than in 2004? catherine: i think some parts of it are new, and some parts of it are old. gullible people are timeless. anyone who has email and two has
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-- and who has received a forward from a relative understands this. it is hard to get those things to stop. i think one of the things that are new here are the platforms and the ease with which someone can create a new story which, although it may sound fantastical to many of us, appeals to people -- a trump supporter may be inclined to believe things that enhance a particular narrative, and you can easily create something that enhances that narrative. it then gets propagated. i think the speed with which that can happen is something that is new. we don't have the same gateway to controlling the media as we traditionally had. ed: adam, you have been mentioned. how does it look from facebook? adam: two different things. one, the nature of how people consume information is continuing to change. specifically, you are seeing more and more publishers. the cost of distribution is going closer and closer to zero. there is more competition, too.
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you can do that in a way that was harder 12 years ago and much harder 12 years before that. that is also continuing to change. but i do think, in general, it is important to separate issues. there are a bunch of different issues. fake news is an issue. i think what we really talking about here is confirmation bias, another issue. hateful speech is another issue. think in how we think about things -- at a high level, we are trying to nurture and -- nurture an ecosystem that means to create value for people but also publishers. that can be symbiotic in some way. things that people find interesting. on the publishing side, we try to create tools, create value. there are really two sides. there is trying to nurture the good. helping people find things they view as meaningful. helping people connect with
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sources. also, to reduce the negative. fake news is one type of negative content. click bait, nudity, hate speech, bullying, filing content. bullying, violent content. we try to divide things in those two different ways and we pursue those and pursue those problems differently. ed: let me ask a crude question. does facebook make money off what we would consider fake news? thingso, there are three we should be concerned about. one, from what we can tell, our research shows that a lot of fake news publishers are financially motivated. often, they switch from one party to another. one thing that we worry about that doesn't seem to be a real issue is that facebook doesn't
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-- people do not use facebook to advertise fake news very much. it is not an effective advertising platform. we can manually approve advertisers. number two, we manually approve advertisers. so, making sure they do not get through. with a financial values it shifted to the fake news publishers using facebook, and this is something we need to further reduce, is getting free distribution. so stopping something from getting a bunch of clicks on something takes a lot of people to a website. maybe it is a paragraph and 80% or 90% ads. we think of those as ad farms. that is not financially benefiting facebook, but it is shifting money to fake news networks. we have to reduce the funding for fake news networks get. -- the funding that fake news
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networks get. we have more work to do. laura: on the financial front, this is an interesting thing that justin told me. one of his sites was caught by google, but the minute that happened, his inbox was filled with hundreds of offers for other places that will run ads on his site. so, unfortunately, the is max.ity to run ads craig: there is a group, i think it is called "sleeping giants." they identify fake news sites, and every time a c an advertiser pop up on it -- every time they pop up on itiser
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they then contact the advertiser and say they should stop advertising there. that is how you define what a fake news site is. but that seems to be working. plus, the ad networks, the bigger ones, like google in particular, they are being asked to stop allowing advertising to be placed on fake news sites. there is a new ad network that is an aggregator that is focused on avoiding this thing. i forget the name of the network. things are happening. i hate to be so critical as to name ad networks by name, but i am sick of seeing ads from these networks. if that stopped appearing in my reading on my phone, i would be pretty happy. ed: someone on the panel help me with this. i want to understand -- if i am an enterprising young person, i come up with, i find some trendy
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terms from google -- things that are clearly of interest for vast numbers of people. so, i run a few stories of kanye west and hillary clinton, possibly a love triangle with somebody else. i go and i post this story, a complete fabrication, nicely done though. i have pictures, too. the next thing you know, i have 500,000 people streaming to there. at that point, i have a serious footprint. so who is making money from that ? is google adsense sending this? is it automated? i think it will be helpful if we all got to the same point with the mechanics of how it was and gains are made on the internet with fake news. >> if you are trying to make money off fake news, you will not start one website.
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you will create many websites. you do this to diversify your risk. if you get shut down in one place, you don't get shut down everywhere else. you then try and create essentially an engine that turns out a lot of content. it is usually very short, sensational, usually deliberately vague and false. you can sometimes go and pay $20 for a paragraph. there are markets for that. then you use an ad network which is basically a middleman between you and the advertisers. you basically then use that to get ads on your webpage, usually very low cost ads. >> if you go into a page and the ads are like for special face cream that ellen is using or weird stuff -- adam: it is low-quality advertising.
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what you do is that you then keep creating content. there are a bunch of different ways to do that. you try to build up a following and get clicks anyway you can on any social media platform or even email chains. what you need to do is, on average, make more money per visit than the cost to create content for all visits. if i pay you $20 to write something crazy about kanye and hillary clinton, or whatever it was, i need to make more than $20 from all people that visited that content. it is just a machine. what you are always looking for, as craig said, is how to game on the platforms you can. it is somewhat of an adversarial relationship. spam. like any other spam, you prevent one type of behavior, they usually come up with another type of behavior.
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to completely reduce fake news 20 -- it is not like the -- fake zero -- it is not like the incentives would disappear. they would find new ways of making money that might not be fake news. it is an ongoing, never-ending relationship. ed: it sounds as if what you are describing are elements that are fundamental to the way the internet pays its way. the fake news purveyors have identified things that are integral to the way the internet is monetized. if i could just read you this quote from "the guardian." "the problem is not fake news but the speed and ease of its dissemination. it exists primarily, because today's digital capitalism makes it extremely profitable, see google and facebook, to disseminate false and click
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worthy narratives." a bit moreis general. the cost of distributing information has gone almost to zero. i had a kid, he is about to turn one. ed: how bad was the advice? to a eventually, i got father who said you will just have to deal with this. by the way, it gets way better at three months. best advice i got. generally, i think it is good that information is easy to access. but there also negative repercussions. the question is, how do we address the negative without reducing the positive effects? which are also very real. craig: fake news, misinformation, disinformation, that has been around forever and
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always will be. what has changed, i think, is precisely that the cost of distribution has gone to zero. --ically, silicone and stand sand has become cheaper. that is what we make fiber-optics out of. we can distribute information, and what that enables is that anyone can be a publisher. anyone can have a platform and be a publisher and distributor information to anyone in the world at very low cost. that has created a number of things. let's think about the big platforms. i don't actually think the small fake news websites are causing that many problems. it is when they get distributed through bigger networks that take advantage of facebook and twitter, that is when we start to be concerned much more. so, social media and user contributed content, those platforms depend on users bringing the content to it.
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that is different than the way publishing used to be done. it is different in an important way. the contents platform providers want to lower the barriers for people to bring content to them. they want to make it as easy as possible for people to publish, getting open publishing platforms for free. you want to attract of that -- some of that content. if you did not have that, you would not have anything. at the same time, you want to keep out the manipulations, the spam, the misinformation. but telling the difference is very hard. it is very costly. that is why i say quality is so important. you need human intervention. when you have 1.8 billion people putting content on the platform, figuring out how to screen out the bad content is very hard. that is what has changed. >> it seems to me, what i am trying to say about facebook, it has its bond and environment that is squishy and nice, you have baby and dog pictures, then someone posts a fake news story in this friendly, warm
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environment. i think people's guard is almost down, because it feels friendly, right? you have your friends and family there. i do not know what to do, was -- what facebook can possibly do, when it is meant to be a platform to share things with your friends. if you are somebody with bad information, it can easily spread like wildfire. >> i am focusing right now on less fighting fake news, more on supporting trustworthy journalism. there are trustworthy news sites out there that do a good job. better than most people know and more centrist than people know. consumer reports is really good. on the one hand, you do it you -- you do what you can to support trustworthy journalism.
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on the other, there are pragmatic things you can do to strike at fake news. the "sleeping giants" approach is one approach to fighting fake news, depriving fake news operators of advertising dollars. another thing you can do is cutting the cord with respect to cable tv. there are fake news networks that rely not only on advertising but on cable franchise fees. cable franchise fees sometimes run into the billions of dollars. if they do not have access to them anymore, that deprives them of a big source of revenue. so that fake news is no longer as profitable as it used to be. in the process, we need to help reporters and news organizations provide trustworthy news. that is part of my relatively new obsession with helping protect reporters from
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harassment and cyber bullying. we also need to have trustworthy organizations, the smaller ones, help them in cases such as media lawsuits. people are beginning to float the ideas. it is not a very exciting topic, intellectually. but if you are a reporter who is sued or potentially sued by bad actors, you want affordable media lawsuit insurance. i will stop there even though i can go on and on. >> i want to speak directly to you. i have a you can do -- kid, so use on facebook varies a lot from market to market and community to community. one thing platforms can do is provide more context about what people are reading.
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there is more choice of context to help people make important decisions about what to trust and share in the first place. that is an area we will continue to work on. another is to try and go further upstream to prevent the quantity of fake news from entering the system in the first place. this is where disrupting economic models are important. you can make it uneconomical, and then most of them will go away. they will do something else. there are a bunch of different ways i think platforms can make it uneconomical for publishers. domain spoofing, abc.co instead of abc.com, or redirect cloaking. those types of tactics that can
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be automated. the other thing we have not done a lot of is take a look at the landing pages. if you go to a page that is 90% ads, it is probably not a real publication. these are types of areas where of areas where i think we have done some work, but there is more work to do. consumers are looking at it and -- looking at it in a similar way. >> a once a pivot off some of the things you have been saying. let me suggest this, that facebook, and these site theys can post stories and draw readers, but they cannot set agendas. they have been dependent on mainstream news media to weaponize news and give it public importance. i wonder if we could talk a little bit about media -- how we
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train our students to take part in the news media, what can they do to handle fake news. avoid being involved in the collusion, unwitting accomplices, for contamination of public discourse? >> one problem i see in the media is floating around is that they are giving it attention. i do not think it helps. this is my opinion. you actually start to give it credence when you report on it. that would be one place. you have a public that wants to believe certain things. news sway the election? or did -- >> it depends on what you mean by fake news.
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>> stories like the ones i tracked down like the clintons were responsible for the deaths of all of these people which is an narrative floating around on the right in this country. if you are inclined to believe that, it it will reinforce what you believe. if the stories were not out that? would you believe that is a question i still have, what impact is this phenomenon having. >> i think are concerned about this is overgrown and driven by the fact that the stories you are reporting on is just so shocking. think the other thing worth paying attention to is what we want companies like facebook to be doing. i happen to like facebook's relatively gentle approach to
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this to label certain stories as potential he fake without taking them down. if we have this conversation is your ago, it would be how much power do we want a company to have to manipulate what the public can see. and now we are sitting in berkeley regarding this story and fake news influencing the election. and how much do we want conversations to use the tomendous power it a do have manipulate that power because of what it says. forever?t we done that i am not really sure that what is new is that we do not have gatekeepers. ask part of the problem is we
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spend so much time wishing or thinking that we live in the world with gatekeepers that we look to the gatekeepers for its -- for solutions. i think there are some things they can do. we have been talking about the news providers and the industry. we are going to have fake news always. because of the zero cost of information distribution, it it will not go away. we can raise the cost of benefits but there will always ,e disinformation, manipulation and infomercials. but we need to do is educate people to be better consumers of information.
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we have not in this country been addressing information literacy nearly as much as we need to come up given the flow of information. we went from scarce information to relatively responsible gatekeepers, with abundant information where everyone has to be their own filter and editor. we have not been teaching students at any level, our population, to be good self editors. there is a piece the came out a few weeks ago that looked at high school students and found going into college, 85% of them cannot tell the difference between a genuine new story and the paid promotion. there are always going to be paid promotions. we have to make sure citizens consisting was between them and know what is paid content and what is journalistic reporting. >> that is a good example.
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there is a whole industry devoted to obfuscating that distinction. that ignorance on the part of the reader has an outcome. >> i want to be up to pay for news that i can trust. what i would like to see is a checkbox that says, only show me news from news organizations that are publicly committed to trustworthy behavior. that would be like an ethics code, diversity policy. committed to good accountability and corrections policy. because people make mistakes, no matter what happens. and an organization of fact checkers, like the one run by the poynter institute. i want to be able to say, only show me stuff from organizations that promise to do trustworthy news and have a good record. and that is enough for me, as a news consumer. that is what i want to pay for. i already do pay for that, i want to pay more for that and a number of different ways. i do not want to prematurely announce it. i would sponsor pledge drives if
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they would use my favorite theme. the idea is, i am putting my money where my mouth is. a lot of other media outlets are looking to do this, in conjunction with the api code, where they are looking into the ethics of funding nonprofit journalism. it is a very recent thing, weeks ago. the idea, i think people are willing to pay for trustworthy news. and frankly, there are a lot of people willing to put their money where their mouth is in a big way. that supported groups like pro-public of -- republica.
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>> people think pete -- npr and others are trustworthy. >> and there are sleeping giants telling advertisers, do you want to be associated with an trustworthy news? untrustworthy news? especially if they allow me to use my favorite theme. >> the idea is to threaten advertisers. [laughter] >> what i proposed with a pledge drive, my theme would be, please dear god, make it stop. [laughter] >> no one will go for it. the idea of the sleeping giant, is to deprive -- great reputational harm. >> we are just saying to new sites, do you really want to be associated with this? and that is constructive and
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positive. >> it does open the door for criticism and action taken against sites because you do not like their messages, not necessarily because they are corrupt or flawed or deserving of a lack of trust. a good deal of what is on breitbart looks like journalism, taste like journalism, comes from a different ideological perspective. it does not mean it should be destroyed. it is part of the landscape of public discourse. yet, i can imagine a good deal of people who disagree with that and would think shutting down a site like breitbart is a good idea. i worry about using ethics as an instrument of political reprisal. >> and you have this up session with breitbart, may i say, boycotts of any sort, it is a two way sword. people do have to make ethical decisions about that.
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after doing customer service on the net for over 20 years, i can assure folks there are a lot of more people with goodwill then bad will out there. maybe that is naïve, but i have been observing human be a long time -- behavior on the net for a long time. people need what they need to act out of goodwill. >> before we go to questions from the audience, let me ask about the dangers of overreaction.
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i think you brought up the possibility this is overblown. i am not sure i entirely agree. google says it will take steps to keep its ads off pages that misrepresent, mistake, or conceal information about the publisher, the publishers content, where the primary purpose of the site. as you parse that sentence, that is a fairly broad mandate to basically perform capital punishment on sites that might expose google to criticism or embarrass them in a corporate way. i worry a little bit that there might be such a broad brush and public unhappiness with what they are seeing, it might motivate and propel a reaction that goes considerably farther than i am comfortable with. >> you are good at the soundbite, capital punishment. if you are on the third page of
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google results, forget about it. >> if you're talking about the advertising model, there are lots of advertisers, google is not the only one. if they start excluding large parts of advertisement, there will be plenty of people this will been, as long as they want to go to the site. as long as it is private individuals and organizations exercising their right to choose what information they value, that is fine. what worries me is if we say the government should decide what is good for us. we have seen countries that operate that way, i do not want to be living in one of them. >> i had a chinese general, i was in china, i got an opportunity to have an off the record conversation with this
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chinese general. i asked her, how much did the people's liberation army concern itself with social media? she said, gave me vague answers and then smiled and said, what do you think of twitter revolution now? from the perspective of these other countries, they are terrified of what this unleashes. there are moments when i think, they kind of know what they are saying. there is a sense of that this creates instability and uncertainty of what is true and it can be used against people. this is a hell of an issue. a difficult, difficult challenging issue. >> if you would put up your hands, we have two people with microphones.
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we can take your questions. in the front, we could do three at a time. you. i just want to share something the chinese stated, their cyber security stated, it is for bit into use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts. which is pretty broad. >> i was hoping you could discuss the fact that the term fake news is already being perverted. president trump accused major media outlets of releasing fake news. now the term fake news is used for articles that are written
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that a politician does not like. i think that makes everything more complicated because it is a way of eliminating people paying attention to real fake news, and being able to dismiss hard reporting going on. in some ways i think that is more of an issue than fake news on the internet. people who get face -- fake news on facebook, sometimes that they are alerted to the fact it is fake news. i do not think consumers are 100% stupid, i think they recognize that a lot. clearly, it is a big issue. but i do think people are aware of it and taking steps to point it out. but with trump saying bad news about me is fake news, that is a huge issue. >> a constructive approach is to promote the trustworthy stuff.
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a couple weeks ago i remembered from sunday school, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. the term fake news is abused. it has emotional resonance that does not come from -- we will still get the term, fake news. but let's support the trustworthy stuff. still get the term, fake news.
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>> this is a tremendous problem. my sister used to play this game where i would say something and she would say it at the same time and it would make you shut up. you say fake news, i will say fake news, i know everyone is saying fake news, and it is crazy. i would like to see a different approach to coverage. we tended to move from event to event two event. recently i was with a group of people talking about this phenomena, maybe we should stick with stories and cover them as they unfold instead of just jumping from a bad days of thing. if we are going to follow the health and human services department, make that an ongoing thing we are covering, rather than just going through the days sound bites. maybe some of this will involve a different approach to news and rethinking how we cover it, as well. >> it is being distorted. on facebook, wheeler people to fake news, we have done that for a long time. people have reported things they
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disagreed with, long before this election. the distortion argues to your point, it is not new, entirely. what is important, if you are involved in issue in some way, the platform, the consumer, it is critical you're clear what you mean when you say fake news, and you do not allow the conflation prevent you from making progress in whatever is your responsibility. each of us in different ways need to pursue it. >> another question? >> i was going to say something similar to what the other person just asked. my comment, i have some optimism and faith of the people that innocently passed fake news will get better at not doing it, just
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like we do not send emails anymore about nigerians trying to send us fortunes. as we get aware of the issue we get better. my issue is similar to what that person said, when trump called out cnn and called it a fake news site, i thought that was really dangerous. the story he was referring to about the russian report of trump's behavior in russia, the story was, in a larger sense, true. there was such a report. the origins of the report were as cnn stated it. the general nature of the allegations were stated, the idea that it was unverified and possibly largely untrue was clearly stated. there was not anything untrue about the story. but by characterizing, focusing on the fact that the report itself might have been untrue
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and to say therefore it is fake news, sets up a situation where now, you are muddying the idea of the fake news, but castrating a news site like cnn, so trump can get cnn to be culpable of fake news. it makes the entire network untrustworthy. it becomes difficult to decide who you can believe. my question is, what can you do about that? especially when it is the president involved? >> i degree that this is really awful. we are going to have misinformation and manipulated information, always. we will have more of it because it is cheaper and easier to distribute it. what we need our discerning, critical thinking citizens. people who pay attention to where the news and information is coming from and make judgments about that.
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something like what trump did is anti-literacy. it is telling people, you believe what you want to believe. representing an institution that is very highly trusted, the u.s. government, he says, do not worry about it, if you do not like it, it is not true. this is a serious problem, and anti-science is a problem to read people say we should be anti-science because we do not like what science tells us, this is false. our institutions are telling us to be anti-literate, anti-science, anti-knowledge. that is dangerous. it is not the job of the government or an institution to tell us what information is correct. it is to help people value and celebrate information literacy and critical thinking so people
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learn early in school and throughout their lives to make judgments and not accept these statements. our own institutional leaders to undercut that is horrifying. >> i would to send a little in the sense that what trump was saying, the underlying veracity of the report the intelligence people were passing along was nonexistent. he cannot welcome the fact they were briefing the president of president-elect on a reality that did not, in his view, exist. and the media has responsibility not to just relay what one person says to somebody else, but what they say must be true. he did have a very strong hand in this one. i think america's foremost media provided a solution to this. in the one case, he points out, when you are talking about politics and the press, it is like visiting the monkey cage at the zoo.
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they are flinging feces at each other and you think, they should not do that. but what you really think is, the zookeeper should say, that monkey -- bad monkey. that is the role of the press in this environment. there is a solution to this, cnn leaves it there, he points out a politician just came out and allied to a reporter. something known to be a black and white lie. the reporter was taken aback, knew that this was a lie. he said, we have to leave it there. so you can look at this segment called cnn leaves it there, daily show, about eight years ago. it is probably the most he said, we have to leave it there. so you can look at this segment effective media ethics commentator in the country. if people get the joke, it is jon stewart. >> catherine brought up the question about facebook, if we had this conversation a year ago, we would he talking about them censoring or curating our
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news in some way. that argument passed a long time ago because it is been well documented, we only see a very tailored, customized news in our own feeds. what i is a hillary clinton supporter was reading on facebook was different than what a donald trump supporter was reading. wended facebook start seeing the rise of the fake news? how long before the election? and why did it take you so long to address it? publicly you said you were only addressing it after the election.
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>> we have been working on fake news as a broader element for a long time. >> i did a report on it. so i know it is true. [laughter] >> i appreciate it. >> i think a year and a half ago -- the amount of attention in the wake of the u.s. election has been enormous. the amount of intensity and work has increased. we have not seen a ton of increase around the election. the amount of fake news on the
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platform, is relatively small. it should be smaller, we should get it is close to zero as possible. we have to be realistic. as long as it is an issue, we should address it as much as possible. more broadly, the question is, how can we make sure we are crating value for the people using our services? fake news is part of a bigger set of challenges we have. though i appreciate the amount of attention fake news is getting, because i like the fact that there is scrutiny and that motivates us to go to work. about two months, we could really get something out there. i also want to make sure we do not miss the important things. it was actually before the election, we wanted to be really careful. we wanted to work pointers, making sure the system would do the right thing. all that was stuff we wanted to be really careful about. we were trying to balance speed and responsibility.
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that is always our job. the last thing i will add it, there are two sides to these things. if we have more stringent policies around what content is shared, we are dangerously close to impinging on speech and other issues. we received a lot of criticism a few months ago about mistaking a taking down a photo from a norwegian publisher.
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>> which photo? >> there is a historical photo about the war in vietnam. there are children and it. >> it won a pulitzer prize, but they took it down because there was a naked girl. >> underage. that was criticism, recently. we will err on letting people express themselves. but we will try to be as
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responsible as we can. >> was that taken down by a person or an automated response? >> the way it works is very different. if you were the new york times, the decision about posting the photo would be made at the page one meeting in the morning. 10 people would argue about it. but things could be posted tens of thousands of times. then it gets reported and we have people reviewing the reporting. that can happen relatively quickly. it was reported and taken down. since we change our policy, we are always learning. we want to learn more and try to get better at these things. >> can i ask a quick follow up? did you take people out of the equation after there was criticism from conservative groups that there is a bias in facebook on taking down conservative news? they took people out of the equation and brought it back to just algorithms? >> not for newsfeed or reports. for trending, we used to have people write summaries for each report.
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we tried to find a way to do that. what we do now, we source from an actual publisher. >> questions? 1, 2, 3. >> my question is like he said. it is an incredibly brilliant strategy. the idea of saying this is fake news, it is like a playground strategy. someone is doing something and you call them that and they call it that you back, and if you react it is a cycle. it seems like the only way it is
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being responded to, the people on most of our sides of the aisle, were appalled. they are saying what i am saying. on the other side they completely believe it. i suppose media literacy, is that the way to do it? can that happen quickly, fast enough? everyone is talking to their own side. and they're are playing on that, big-time. that was my question. i do not know if there are further comments on. >> i see a tremendous hunger in the news industry to do this. the thing holding us back is a bit of fear of harassment and bullying. you could call it harassment and bullying in the legal system, litigation stuff. i see people beginning to move on it. i think it is happening faster than i thought. the silver cloud in the electoral lining.
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the news industry has an idea something needs to be done. this one guy involved said if we do not hang together, we will hang separately. [laughter] the news industry has an idea >> i do see hope with this. things can happen. one of the efforts is the trust project. if anyone here wants to talk to sally from the trust project, we can get you an interview with her fairly quickly. things are happening, and that is why i am beginning to obsess about the issue of harassment and cyber bullying. not just in the news media, but in general, and news media in particular. >> and want to pick a tiny bone with you, ed. i think what happened at the trump presser was something qualitatively new on this front. it seems to me that at this moment on january 19, 2017, we are dealing with a lot of things
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we dealt with in the past, but also new problems. cnn and mother jones covered the story well before the election. they reported on the existence of memos from professionals. they said they had talked to the fbi. both feeds publish the memos. what trump did at the presser, he said not you, not you, you are fake news. your organization is terrible, quiet. all these things deserve unpacking. what i am curious about from each of you is, what you identify as a qualitatively new thing that is going on, and whether you see a qualitatively new, doable remedy?
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cragg has already laid out his, so he has a pass. i want to hear what the rest of you have to say. >> the fact that he called the cnn out in a press conference is new. however, the obama administration initially did not want to give interviews to fox news because they did not like fox news and people were all over the obama administration for this. in that sense, it is a degree of difference. i don't think we have ever seen not where president called somebody out like that. from what i am hearing, cnn at one point come to fox news' defense with regard to trump, and i think there is an effort for journalistic organizations
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to stick together to defend each other's right to report the news. that seems to me a very important thing going on at this moment. to resist that singling out the donald trump did. >> i agree. it is true the administration's play favorites forever. it did feel as though trump was criminalizing editorial judgment in a way to banish, you are off the table, i am not considering you a journalist anymore, you're proffering something else. that seemed to ratchet up the combat, if you like. >> you just mentioned china a bit ago. i went to china on an exchange with other journalists and entrepreneurs. one of the things they talked about was the great firewall,
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where google and facebook are blocked from that entire country. you cannot even access the type of information. we spoke about groups and organizations that would help filter or create filters for the consumers on what media they may or may not be able to consume. where do we lie on getting the right media and traveling on her first amendment right to make sure we are blocking the right people? >> and nobody has suggested that a government-imposed solution is a good idea. we have robust, first amendment protection. although there are narrow categories of speech unprotected, recently on a case claiming you have won an honor you did not win, there has to be
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something in addition to that. anyone who doubts the government should not be involved, to police go through the exercise of what it is they want the government to do. do you want congress to pass a law in certain areas? do you want them to say false speech is inadmissible? it is clear government solution does not make a lot of sense. we are left with intermediaries trying to run with this. i like the approach of labeling speech, because we do have a different first amendment tradition here. >> if my website is starved of traffic and forced to shut down because of something google does, how much comfort do i have that it was not the government that didn't? >> i am saying that is a concern. we should be concerned about how much we rely on intermediaries
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and how much we want them to suppress speech because there are chokepoints for speech. the internet intermediaries are the payment companies, we use them to cut off payments. does it matter to you as a website owner whether it is the government or somebody else? >> three more questions. you, you, and in the back, with the glasses. thank you. like a precision machine. if you have a microphone, go
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ahead. >> in his 2015 book, the devils chessboard, he uses declassified public records to trace a long history, allowing the cia to plant stories. for example, they hand-picked a journalist for the times to send it to the congo to cover someone who invented stories about torture chambers and political assassinations. you can job pretty straight line from their coverage of wmd's in iraq. on what grounds can we draw a distinction between those falsified and planted stories and what we are discussing here today as fake news? and secondly, what can we do to combat or push back against false stories coming from mainstream or trustworthy organizations? >> that is a good question. [laughter] >> who wants to have at it? [laughter]
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>> if a news organization finds a project, follows through with corrections and accountability, you tell them, this was not factual, here is the evidence. then you see the results. give them a chance, then publish it. you will be publishing something that says how wonderful they were about fixing the argument. i am mr. positive. >> you identify an area of real frailty and vulnerability in the press. if you have been lied to by the source you pledged confidentiality to, blowing the whistle on that source is problematic.
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government lies delivered under those terms become extremely difficult to expose. it is still worth distinguishing between what you're talking about on the fake news and what we're discussing. this falls within the bailiwick of reporters negotiating and trying to confirm the veracity of information they are getting from sources. we are talking about deliberate fabrication of information by the equivalent of reporters acting for personal benefit. that fabrication is extremely profitable and useful. it comes with a civic consequence that a great many people go around believing things that are not true. the result of what you are describing and we have been discussing is the same. people believe things are not the case. they have a common dysfunction, and i agree with that.
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reporters are at a far better position, they are misled and deceived, but that is your job to determine the veracity of information you're given area i see where you're going with it, but it is a different and continuing problem the journalism faces. >> i think it is fundamentally a more challenging issue. the question is, how do you address it? saying the new york times is trustworthy, point to the fact we need multiple approaches. i think literacy is an important one, a skeptical reader can ask questions, look at what the sources are. i think skeptical journalists, as well. that is also important. and dialogue.
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you can talk with different experts, on a platform like facebook, or in person. i think the debate is healthy. those are parallel tracks to trustworthy labels or reputations on a publication level. you just need a multipronged approach. >> can have a microphone? i wanted to know if it is true that right wing fake news generates more revenue than the left wing fake news? [laughter] >> i will say that justin kohler said it did. he tried to come up with fake, left-wing new stories and they did not do as well. so he stopped doing it. how do you prove that? i do not know. that is just what he told me. >> beyond the financial
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motivations, there can be broad, intellectual impacts about fake news. they can expand by really be far -- far beyond retraction of any -- retraction. some want to curtail fake news, i wondered if you had plans to help this issue? >> i think there are two coup ways to approach that. let people know retroactively. maybe if they read it or shared it. the other, to try and move further upstream. to stop it from entering the system in the first place. you want to make sure as little comes in as possible. and when it happens you need to react as quickly as you can.
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and you need to consider letting people know the questions who and how. >> i lead of the trust project, thank you for the shout out, craig. we are trying to work on the positive in the sense of helping people identify quality news. today's buzz feed reported on a survey they had done of over 1000 people asking where they got the news on whether they trusted it. most people in the survey, who get their news from facebook, most people also said they do not trust the news they get on facebook. [laughter] >> my question is, is this a good or a bad thing?
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could this be part of what is undermining trust in the news? and if it is, what can we do about it? >> i can tell you. [laughter] >> i think you have an opinion. >> and no, i am not sure. it is an interesting phenomenon. >> i do not know what to make of survey results like that. this is where i get my news, but i do not believe it. what kind of full do you take me for? i wonder if that is become a cultural trope. of course i consume a lot of things, i do not believe what it says, but it shapes my actions, worldview, it has all the effects. anybody would say of course i believe what i read in the new york times, people would let you
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and walk away. at a bar, they would move down a couple stools because they would think you are a fool. i wonder if there is a larger mistrust in major institutions that you are seeing a portion of. it does not have to do with the fact that what they read on facebook they fundamentally disbelieved. >> i should clarify, the percentages of people that trusted news from their newspaper and from their television news was much higher. i agree, i think the survey has a some faults. but there is something there that seems noteworthy. >> there are two sides. a lot of people are considering news on facebook. we do not write the news, we're a platform and we connect with sources.
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by and large, it is a good thing. we have helped a lot of people discover a lot of content that they might not have discovered otherwise. it is good. the publications i read are not from san francisco. in the middle of the 20th century you could only read one to three papers. i think it is a good thing. and i think skepticism is a good thing. i do not think trust is binary. you should have a certain amount of skepticism. that means we have work to do, but we have a skeptical set of people using arm platform, that is good. >> that is terrific news to the extent it was a good survey and measured what it said it was measuring. a large fraction of our population here is more news stories from facebook is hardly surprising because that is where
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they spend their time reading. they'd see their news more there than elsewhere. they actually recognize it is not a platform that is an editorial platform, they are not selecting or verifying the reliability, that is also great news. it is great news that people recognize that are different qualities of information and they should pay attention to the source and recognize -- if you read it in wikipedia it may be right, but do not assume it is. check further if you are going to rely on it to make a decision or judgment. >> this is for adam. it is great news that people recognize that are different qualities of information and of their news through facebook, for some people, that is all since so many people get so much they receive.
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most people here might visit news websites are get a package in a nice, diverse nest of stories oppositional to what they feel, summer feel good, some are upsetting. facebook seems designed for pleasurable experiences. you're saying things that reaffirm your beliefs. most people here might visit news websites are get a package in a nice, diverse nest of stories oppositional to what content is atomized based on sharing stories. if i only see things i agree with, it in center by his fake news. how does somebody like facebook, how do you prove -- present information that is oppositional to someone's beliefs? i would not want to see things i disagree with on facebook, but there could be value to that. >> our mission is to find stories that are meaningful, not pleasurable. we cannot know for every individual what that is. some things we look at are going to correlate with whether you agree with that. we're moving more and more
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toward, did you spend a lot of time reading it? having a conversation about it? people on the internet have long discussions about what they disagree about all the time. [laughter] >> how much of the video did you watch? that said, there are multiple forces at play. people have publishers they follow and they will fall into somewhat like-minded friends and publishers. that is a force towards less diversity. there is also a force in the other direction. some tend to follow lots of publications. in europe, the average person has over 50 questions from outside their country. it is hard to find forgery friends that live in different countries that are like-minded. to that pushes diverse city. best weakens all tell, we
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continue to look into this. people are exposed to as much content they disagree with on facebook as off facebook. >> we have about five minutes left, let's try to get a couple more. yes. >> i think fake news is a really important topic and i'm glad we are talking about it. but it seems premature to talk about fake news when millions of people in america do not have any trust in the media establishment at all. my question is, is our concentration on this misguided? she would be focusing on fake news? or should we be focusing on building up trust in america in the media in general? >> do you think fake news is another way of describing this larger sense of mistrust in the media? is that the reason it is taking on, has been so widely adopted and applied to wrongdoing that has nothing to do with fabrication?
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>> i think the issue is that some people might not trust any media, mainstream establishment. they do not care if facebook thinks it is fake. if it is coming from an establishment news source i will not trusted because i do not trust the establishment. i am wondering why we are focusing on this small subset and not looking at the bigger picture? >> i think it is a really important question. unfortunately, we have not talked about the problem of
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financing media right now. there used to be armies of local news reporters who were within their communities out there representing their local community. you could have a relationship with them. we are also at a moment when local newspapers are going under. i feel like to address this question we have to come up with a way to have more local news that is interactive with its community, with boots on the ground. >> i think it is a really important question. unfortunately, we have not talked about the problem of financing media right now. there used to be armies of local
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news reporters who were within their communities out there representing their local community. you could have a relationship with them. we are also at a moment when local newspapers are going under. i feel like to address this question we have to come up with a way to have more local news that is interactive with its the first news i was reporting wasn't local community meetings, looking at issues like double parking. that kind of being there in the community is really important because then people feel like it is their media. i live in the mission in san francisco and all local has become a community source and it has flaws but i trust them because they are right there and i think that that problem right there is huge and we need to do something to address it and it is probably bigger and beyond this panel. >> one more question. >> i wanted to ask about public data and accountability. my analysis showed an increase in fake news sharing every day. that is using the data i was able to find. i do not know if people trust me or facebook. facebook and google can instantly restructure the entire incentive around the media ecosystem. they can decide what news gets
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attention. to they have a responsibility to provide transparency about how their code impacts that? they can provide aggregate data about how much attention is being directed to what content. that would be one example of this accountability. >> i think we have a lot of responsibility to be as transparent as we can. most importantly, to communicate our values and standards. that is important. publishers -- and for our users, so they can understand how it works. when it comes to issues like fake news, it is challenging. it becomes challenging because of the adversarial relationship. the more specific we are about what we are doing, the less effective it becomes. i think we are getting better. over the last three years, we have announced every major change for actively which was not the case when i started. we do put a lot out but when we have the most room to improve is
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how to scale that average because i meet people who -- we have to figure out how to scale that outreach. i'm taking it seriously. >> i am talking to people who are doing similar work analyzing networks, fake news, that -- and bad actors. when a technology platform can say is sometimes it is constrained by law regulations particularly in europe. this is based on talking to people who are doing this.
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be careful because if you are doing analytical work which can expose bad actors, they fight dirty. be careful. >> with that, we are out of time. [laughter] i want to thank our panel. [applause] >> from national public radio, facebook, craigslist, uc berkeley. thank you very much. [applause]
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here on c-span this morning, washington journal is next. at 10:00 on newsmakers, nan aron talks about the nomination of the judge to the supreme court and the decision by jeff forions to recuse himself the investigation of russia's involvement in the presidential election. and later, president trump delivers his first address to a joint session of congress. up on today's washington journal, a look at the trump administration's 2018 budget outline which includes a proposed increase to military spending. andre joint by robert bixby for its contributors stand colander who work as a staffer for the house and

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