Mozilla, the creator of a popular web browser, Firefox, has decided it is time to tackle fake news.
On August 8, 2017 the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, which believes the Internet must always remain a global public resource that is open and accessible to all, announced the creation of the Mozilla Information Trust Initiative (MITI) – a comprehensive effort to keep the Internet credible and healthy.
The approach will be a multi-faceted effort to keep the Internet credible that uses newly developed technology, public education, research and electronic interventions to disrupt fake news.
“Mozilla is developing products, research, and communities to battle information pollution and so-called ‘fake news’ online. And we’re seeking partners and allies to help us do so.
“The impact of misinformation on our society is one of the most divisive, fraught, and important topics of our day. Misinformation depletes transparency and sows discord, erodes participation and trust, and saps the web’s public benefit.
“In short: it makes the Internet less healthy. As a result, the Internet’s ability to power democratic society suffers greatly.”
Mozilla’s products have a deep reach into users of the Internet and is well placed to make an impact. Stay tuned.
Recent efforts by Facebook to stop the proliferation of fake news is having no effect according to a respected fact-checking organisation.
“Fake news is flying thick and fast,” said Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of Snopes, a highly respected fact-checking site partnering with Facebook to review content flagged by users as potentially false.
The Guardian asked Ms Binkowski if she believes Facebook’s new system is having an effect on false news through the use of tags, and she replied: “I honestly can’t tell.”
There is even anecdotal evidence that a fake news warning by Facebook can cause increased shared of an fake news article.
Despite this, most partner organisation believes the initiative is a step in the right direction.
Xana O’Neill, managing editor of ABC News Digital, said she believes the process is having a positive impact, but adds that Facebook is refusing to provide actual data to support the initiative.
Google and Facebook’s dominance may destroy tradition news media, but the pair’s dominance will just as likely take them down also says media commentator, Rick Waghorn.
Plus the former newspaper journalist and founder of the Adiply advertising platform believes the dominant two are not respecting advertisers – which could make them turn away in droves when they tire of the complexity, lack of control, and likelihood that their adverts will appear alongside fake news and unsavoury content such as the views of terrorist groups.
Waghorn says the two US tech giants now control more than 90 per cent of advertising income in the US and will control 71 per cent of the UK advert market by 2021.
This, he says, “has everyone from Rupert Murdoch down, running for their nearest government minister in a bid to clip the wings of Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and friends.”
“But state intervention, as currently sought, is to my mind invariably the last act of the damned,” he says.
“The fact that Facebook and Google are, between them, bringing 3,500 hi-tech jobs to London this year makes their hand ever stronger when it comes to the shaping of policy with regard to the hard-pressed legacy publishers by an incoming government.”
But the former Oxford history scholar says history can be valuable in helping predict where this dominance will lead.
“Complex societies as the Mayans, the Chacoans, the Romans and, by implications, the Facebooks, collapse quite naturally when the costs of being a member of said society come to out-weight the original rewards,” says Waghorn.
He argues that when no-one else can create income in the digital advertising market, a tipping point will be reached where those that can be seen to be controlling the entire income stream become targets for toppling, and campaigns such as boycotts ensue.
“If Mark and Sergey don’t heed the lessons of history; don’t heed the warning shot that Press Gazette has fired across their bows and return to a more equitable share of the digital spoils, they will fall,” says Waghorn, who points to the world’s biggest advertiser, Proctor & Gamble, as an indicative scenario.
“This week they pulled USD 1.5bn out of the global advertising space because they weary of the cost of complexity,” he says.
“A complexity in which fake news thrives and in which household brands find themselves ‘supporting’ jihadi videos. The ‘cost’ can be as much to brand perception as it can be to P&G’s bottom line.”
Proctor & Gamble’s CFO Jon Moeller earlier told investors: “We’re working to lead the effort on media transparency, eliminating costs in the media supply chain created by poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework, too many hidden touches, too many holes, where criminals can rip us off and unsafe places for our brands to have ads.”
What’s your take on this? Is history a good indicator for the new and largely unexplored area of digital media and online duopolies? Send us your view on our feedback form.
A prominent Australian academic believes the fresh culling of journalist jobs across the country will put the industry in crisis and give rise to more ‘fake news factories’.
Margaret Simons, a prominent Melbourne academic and Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, has called the latest round of staff cuts in Australia’s two biggest news organisations, Fairfax Media and News Corporation the “latest local lurch in a crisis that is engulfing journalism worldwide”.
Writing in the Australian edition of the Guardian she said recent events, including the rise to power of Donald Trump, means “many more people are turning their mind to the future of news, including “fake” news and its opposite.”
But, she asked, “How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?”
Simons believes the recent rise in concern for the truth and the role of traditional newsrooms in upholding this ideal is possibly too late.
“As this week’s announcements make clear, the newsrooms that have traditionally provided most original journalism are radically shrinking,” she said. “In 2013, industry commentators estimated that more than 3000 Australian journalists had lost their jobs in the previous five years.
“Since then, there have been further deep cuts, and last week’s announcements were merely the latest. In the US, it is estimated that 15 per cent of journalistic jobs disappeared between 2005 and 2009, and the cuts haven’t paused since then.”
She predicts a bleak future for truth in news, and gently suggests that while audiences ignore factual reporting such as the publication of Barack Obama’s birth certificate and continue to believe the myth that he was born overseas, the predicted ‘enlightenment’ from global internet-connected populations will, in fact, be the opposite.
“I think it is clear we will have many more smaller newsrooms in the future – including new entrants, non-media organisations touting their wares and the wasted remains of the old businesses.
“Some of these newsrooms will operate on the slippery slopes that lie between news, advocacy and advertising.
“Some of them will be the fake news factories, devoted to earning an income from spreading clickable, outrageous lies.”