In a world of false beauty and counterfeit luxury handbags, fake news presents, by far, the most significant moral dilemma of our lifetime. Fake news poses a problem at massive scale fiscally, politically and ethically. Companies can be made or broken based on their online reputation. Elections can be won or lost. And truth can be manipulated. Brands buy fake/bot followers to inflate their worth, and give glossy-eyed consumers a vanity metric to be jealous of. The problem is vast and complex, but I believe with more education and more conversation, we can start course correcting. Hopefully, before it’s too late… WAGGING WAR AGAINST CLICK-BAIT Clicks have somehow become synonymous with truth. Gone are the days of right and wrong. Fact versus opinion, reality and make-believe, all seem to blend together in some kaleidoscope of manufactured truth. Legal cases are now won based on the merits of the ‘court of public opinion’. As opposed to fact-based information. Media want to be first-to-print, so often publish stories with little to no fact-checking, making a trade off for clicks (and their consequent revenue) rather than unbiased journalism. With a racy headline and a juicy image, journalists bait online readers into clicking their content. A click ultimately transforms into a dollar in terms of media benchmarks and sponsorship/ad dollars. So why care about the truth, when you can just line your pockets instead? The more a piece of content is clicked on, the higher it ranks on a search engine such as Google. The higher something is on a search engine, the more likely we are to take a quick glimpse and perceive it as fact. When was the last time you yourself did that? Look at your own search history and think, did I judge this company/brand/person fairly; do I have all of the facts? THE ETHICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA News feed algorithms have revolutionized the way we consume news. Only 0.2% of eligible stories make it onto your newsfeed. Less than 1%! There are 100,000 individual weights in the model that produces your newsfeed, but content is ranked based on three primary factors:
Algorithms have become so sophisticated that they’re now using machine learning, in real-time, and collecting copious amounts of data, to tailor your newsfeed to you. Reinforcing group-think and sameness, and perpetuating and amplifying one’s own beliefs and pre-conceived notions. Without presenting any rebuttal or differing opinions. This is highly toxic and leads to deep buckets of segregation. Understanding your customer and the type of content they want to consume, and refining that demographic month over month, is important for a brand’s bottom line. They’re not concerned with your right to unbiased information. They’re concerned with selling their story and their sponsor’s product, and they’re stealing your own money doing it.