SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Zakia Bouachraoui, Roger Strukhoff, David Linthicum

Blog Feed Post

Fake News: A Case Study

Real fake news articles feature fabricated stories crafted to push a particular agenda. In most cases, the thesis of the article is supported by alternative facts (lies). But there are more subtle, more insidious types of fake news. Specifically, articles that might pass a cursory fact check, but have been written to espouse a point of view unintended by the original author. Here’s a quick case study that demonstrates the technique and clearly illustrates why it will be nearly impossible to stop.

Last week I wrote a relatively popular article entitled “Facebook: Ministry of Truth?” It was published on my own website, as an opinion piece on LinkedIn, and in the digital opinion section of AdAge, where I am a weekly contributor. The thesis of the article is that in my opinion, Facebook’s idea to survey its users about the trustworthiness of any particular news source is misguided. I stated the problem, cited examples of what might go wrong, and offered a solution.

A few days later, a pull quote from my article appeared on Yahoo News in an article entitled “Facebook admits social media threat to democracy” by Rob Lever for AFP (Agence France-Presse, a French news site). Mr. Lever’s name is not linked to anything, and if you use the search box on afp.com, his name does not yield any recent results. That said, he’s easy to find on Google, and he looks like a pretty busy writer. He’s verified on Twitter, and he has a solid profile on LinkedIn. By all accounts, he’s a professional writer. But is he a trustworthy journalist?

Importantly, I am not a journalist. I am a business advisor, a commentator, and a professional purveyor of my own opinions. I do my best to research my work, and I take great care to link to sources I cite (many editors, though, remove links they believe to be extraneous – which is both annoying and unfair). In any case, I always make it clear that my writing is opinion and commentary, not “news.” My conclusions are my own, and I encourage Socratic discussion about the topics I cover. Most of my posts end with an author’s note: “This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.”

Mr. Lever chose to paraphrase what I wrote and to quote directly from my article:

    But technology columnist Shelly Palmer warned that Facebook appeared to be equating trust and truth with what the public believes — what some call “wikiality.”
    “Wikiality is Facebook’s answer to fake news, alternative facts, and truthiness,” Palmer wrote. “Facebook, the social media giant, is going to let you rank the news you think is most valuable. What could possibly go wrong?”

Mr. Lever uses what I wrote to support his idea in his article that “Facebook admits that social media is threat to democracy.” I do not agree with Mr. Lever’s statement. I believe his sentiment is misguided in the extreme.

Is Mr. Lever’s article fake news?

He never spoke to me, did not cite or link back to my original work, did not even mention my article, and did not use the quote in its correct context, that is, the thesis that I wrote my article to support. In Mr. Lever’s article, the quote from my article is just words attributed to me. He has used my words without proper citation to further his own ideas. This manipulation of my writing is at least disingenuous and at worst nefarious.

But is it fake news?

Mr. Lever’s article has propagated and promoted a point of view I do not share. So that part is fake. And thanks to Yahoo News and Mr. Lever’s excellent click bait headline, it has gone very, very wide. Thousands of people have tweeted, retweeted, posted and shared several versions of the article. Critically, each share adds editorial credence for members of the respective social networks. If you learn about something from inside your echo chamber, and it feels true, you are very likely to accept it as such.

Along with the original version of Mr. Lever’s article, a quick search yielded the following:

Phys.org – Facebook admits social media threat to democracy (Update)
France24 – Facebook vows to tackle social media threat to democracy
Daily Sabah – Facebook admits social media could pose a threat to democracy
Lifestyle Magazine – Facebook vows to tackle social media threat to democracy

There were several more, but these few support my argument. In the above examples, the titles are slightly different, and the article has been slightly rewritten. In all of the above examples, the writing credit goes to AFP, the news agency, not to Rob Lever.

The Journey

This story has gone from one writer’s opinion (mine) to another writer’s subjective interpretation of that opinion (Rob Lever’s) to fake news (AFP). Was Mr. Lever’s writing an innocent manipulation of published work? Is he just a poor journalist, or is he an awesome journalist being paid to propagate the idea that somehow Facebook and social media are bad for democracy?

I don’t want to pick on Mr. Lever. I don’t know him or what his motivations might be. I just wanted to share with you that my words, which accurately communicated my opinions, were twisted to support a thesis I do not agree with. Then that misrepresentation was widely propagated.

Most Quotes Are Out of Context

Most quotes are out of context; that’s not new. But when a professional journalist quotes you in an article, usually you are clearly identified and the thesis of the article is in line with your thoughts. When professional journalists use pull quotes, the quotes are – or they should be – linked back to the original article, so even if the quotes are used out of context, it’s easy to find the original article and to quickly ascertain the original author’s true meaning.

What makes Mr. Lever’s use of my writing different is that I was not contacted, the pull quotes work for an alternative point of view, and the writing mistakenly suggests that I share that point of view. The damage is done, and only a fraction of the people who read the Yahoo News piece and its offspring will see this article calling out Mr. Lever’s misrepresentations.

So Easy You Can Do It By Mistake

If it is this easy to create fake news with a pull quote from an opinion piece, imagine how easy it is when the writer has malicious intent. It doesn’t take long to see how this kind of manipulation of published works can be used to push conspiracy theories or populist views.

Will It Ever Be Worth The Resources To Police?

There is one more thing to learn from this particular case study. Unless you are specifically looking to fact check the quotes, there is no way to flag any of Mr. Lever’s writing as fake news. If an algorithm could be written to do the fact checking, it would not call Mr. Lever’s misrepresentation as an error. Even if an AI system were trained to fact check, it would look at my original article, find the quote, and assume Mr. Lever’s writing was correctly pulling the quote. No matter what tools are used, determining that such erroneous reporting is fake news requires more resources than most people would be willing to commit.

Some food for thought as Facebook and other social media sites face existential questions about their value to society.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

Other Articles You May Enjoy

The Case for Responsible Innovation

The Death of the Internet: What Happens Now?

Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized

Why Lose-Lose Almost Always Beats Win-Win

TV’s Cry for Help

I’d Pay You $500,000 a Year, but You Can’t Do the Work

The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take First

How Do You See the Future?

The post Fake News: A Case Study originally appeared here on Shelly Palmer

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

Latest Stories
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
ScaleMP is presenting at CloudEXPO 2019, held June 24-26 in Santa Clara, and we’d love to see you there. At the conference, we’ll demonstrate how ScaleMP is solving one of the most vexing challenges for cloud — memory cost and limit of scale — and how our innovative vSMP MemoryONE solution provides affordable larger server memory for the private and public cloud. Please visit us at Booth No. 519 to connect with our experts and learn more about vSMP MemoryONE and how it is already serving some of...
Darktrace is the world's leading AI company for cyber security. Created by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System is the first non-consumer application of machine learning to work at scale, across all network types, from physical, virtualized, and cloud, through to IoT and industrial control systems. Installed as a self-configuring cyber defense platform, Darktrace continuously learns what is ‘normal' for all devices and users, updating its understa...
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
As you know, enterprise IT conversation over the past year have often centered upon the open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. In fact, Kubernetes has emerged as the key technology -- and even primary platform -- of cloud migrations for a wide variety of organizations. Kubernetes is critical to forward-looking enterprises that continue to push their IT infrastructures toward maximum functionality, scalability, and flexibility. As they do so, IT professionals are also embr...
Platform9, the leader in SaaS-managed hybrid cloud, has announced it will present five sessions at four upcoming industry conferences in June: BCS in London, DevOpsCon in Berlin, HPE Discover and Cloud Computing Expo 2019.
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
When you're operating multiple services in production, building out forensics tools such as monitoring and observability becomes essential. Unfortunately, it is a real challenge balancing priorities between building new features and tools to help pinpoint root causes. Linkerd provides many of the tools you need to tame the chaos of operating microservices in a cloud native world. Because Linkerd is a transparent proxy that runs alongside your application, there are no code changes required. I...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
Kubernetes as a Container Platform is becoming a de facto for every enterprise. In my interactions with enterprises adopting container platform, I come across common questions: - How does application security work on this platform? What all do I need to secure? - How do I implement security in pipelines? - What about vulnerabilities discovered at a later point in time? - What are newer technologies like Istio Service Mesh bring to table?In this session, I will be addressing these commonly asked ...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.