Friday, January 12, 2018

Facing Facts

The greatest American superstition is a belief in facts.

— Hermann Keyserling

Facebook is countering fake news by downgrading all news.

Beginning next week, users will see mainly the posts of friends and family in their feeds; publishers' posts will virtually vanish.

In the short term, the decision is harmful. 

Facebook's move will lower users' time on the social network, and lower the "referral traffic" publishers count on. The latter will force all publishers to scramble to make up for the lost eyeballs, and put a lot of them out of business, according to The New York Times.

In the long term, however, the decision is beneficial—to Facebook.

Under scrutiny for abetting Kremlin-backed trolls during the 2016 election, the company confronts the real possibility of government regulation, as it lacks AI's equivalent of a Walter Cronkite or Ben Bradlee to decide what's legitimately newsworthy.

Critics complain the company's move amounts to a news blackout, since nearly half of Americans get at least some of their news from the social network

But CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is merely "protecting our community from abuse and hate."

The decision signals a return by Facebook to its "college scrapbook" origins ("Look how my new brussels sprouts recipe turned out!")

Takeaway? Ten years from now, we'll chuckle to recall we once believed Facebook was a media company.
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