“Talking to an information sciences professor about the challenges ahead
Concern about the prevalence of fake or sensationally biased news sources has escalated in the days following the presidential election, with many citing it as a factor (some even the primary cause) of Donald Trump’s win.
The central focus of the concern is Facebook, which has grown beyond a social platform and is now a key information distributor from which 44 percent of Americans get their news. Though Mark Zuckerberg stated publicly that the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election was “crazy,” a BuzzFeed News report uncovered that people within his own company consider this response flippant and are busy organizing in secret to dig into the data and make recommendations to senior leadership. This news came out after a Gizmodo reportstated that Facebook had already built a system that could weed out fake news but had chosen not to deploy it because of the undesirable optics of the tool going after mostly right-wing “news” sources. Facebook has denied that report, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about what’s going on behind closed doors.
On top of Facebook’s issues, the first Google search result for election results for several hours on Monday was a tiny conspiracy blog that wrongly showed Trump winning the popular vote. Google and Facebook both announced on Monday that they would block fake news sources from using their ad networks (one of the key ways that small to moderately sized websites make money), but the issue of fake news creeping up in search results and news feeds is still an urgent one.
All of this is compounded by the reality that a lot of people don’t know fake news when they see it, sensationalized reports are more likely to go viral on social media than sane ones, and distrust of traditional (and genuinely more reliable) media sources is rising.
To get a better idea of how we can fight misinformation, The Verge talked to Professor Nicole A. Cooke of the University of Illinois. Professor Cooke works in the University’s top-ranked School of Information Sciences, focusing on human information behavior, information literacy, and diversity in librarianship. We discussed why it seems to be getting harder and harder for people to keep track of the truth, what libraries are doing to help them, and what we all need to do going forward.”