No one could have predicted the influence social platforms like yours would have on our world, on our minds and our people, on the tide of elections and movements, but it's clear we have a problem.
We fell into a burnin' ring of fire.
Our generation is at stake, and we can no longer play fast and loose with our future. We're in desperate need of a comprehensive global solution for news and information that systematically empowers us with everything we need to be an educated people who think for ourselves.
Imagine an overlay, for every news article on Facebook, with 4 buttons to critical thinking tools that help us balance our perspective, learn from healthy debate and research credibility for ourselves.
1. Selecting the Perspectives button would display a list of articles about the same news story from other media outlets, allowing users to see a balanced perspective on each headline everywhere news is displayed. For example, while reading an article by CNN, we could quickly see that same story by FOX, NYT, NPR, BBC, etc, helping to combat the blazing brush fire of confirmation bias. Machine learning can accomplish this and verified news outlets will enhance this tool's value.
2. Selecting the Sources button would display reference and source links for each unified news story, enabling users to quickly navigate to resources that can help them verify the credibility of the story. Crowdsourcing can accomplish this, similar to reference links on Wikipedia, and verified and paid researchers will increase the value of this tool.
3. Selecting the Debate button would display a feed of commentary by verified thought leaders and commentators in a threaded conversation for each news story, allowing users to be empowered by well rounded debate. Verifying commentators from reputable news outlets, research institutions, etc, and granting them access to a verified comment thread for each unified news story will accomplish this.
4. Selecting the Origin button would display all known info about where the story originated. This could include the original news release and/or info on where the headline broke, allowing people to see if the story evolved into bias. Crowdsourcing by verified individuals can accomplish this, and a partnership with an organization like Reuters will make this tool more valuable.
The biggest obstacle at the center of the entertainment fake news epidemic is our age's overwhelming deluge of information.
Five years ago it seemed impossible to be fooled by fake news, for propaganda to manifest to the masses, for so many of us to unknowingly be fooled into the spreading of false media. The Internet seemed to equalize our access to information in a way that would give us freedom from fakeness, but as 2 billion people became publishers on their own social accounts, and as websites and content grew into the trillions, it has become nearly impossible to verify anything with certainty.
The lightning fast pace of our modern world breeds a lifestyle that makes it nearly impossible to find time to research every article or fact we come across.
Life is moving faster than ever, and we are all holding on for life as the train of tomorrow careens violently forward into uncertainty. Even for those of us who take to Google to find the reality of every article we read, it is an overwhelming task with very little fruit. There is simply too much information to consider and no clear baseline for verifying truth, creating a rabbit hole of uncertainty without end.
Online content is fed to us using smart algorithms that display more of what we like, leaving us in endless loops of bias.
The modern social media news feed, mostly pioneered by you [Facebook], prioritizes content that is similar to posts we and our friends have engaged with in the past, creating a biased self sustaining feedback loop that masks as credibility. Humans are easily fooled by the consensus of their tribes, and so when enough people are championing something, it gives off the illusion of truth regardless of the reality of it. This is especially dangerous when there is a lack of diversity in an individual’s social graph. There is generally more than one side to every story, and without access to a balanced perspective, it is easy for false news to spread like a brush fire.
The final issue has plagued us since the time of Socrates, the underbelly of humans will always lean into lies to push their agendas forward.
Socrates asked questions of the people of Greece. He challenged broken thinking built on generations of lies and bias. The leaders, aimed at keeping their legacy of control, aligned the public to silence Socrates with fake news. Later, similar types launched crusades with fake news, enslaved humans with fake news, won elections and discredited scientists with fake news. This is a systemic complication we will never solve completely, because there will always be a reprehensible sample of humans who understand the power of lies and preying on fear to push an agenda or make money. We have seen the darkness of this play out with agencies like Cambridge Analytica, and they won’t be the last.
A common gut reaction to our information epidemic is to push for regulation, to somehow force you [Facebook] to define what news is true and false, to compel your platform to become some form of next generation lie detector, but social platforms should never become the harbingers of truth. This is an impossible and dangerous task that Facebook will never live up to and shouldn't be required to live up to.
Facebook should be a platform not a publisher.
Our filter for truth should never be a platform or an individual company or organization, it should be our own empowered critical thinking. And so, with the responsibility to solve this mess currently falling on you, the social platforms where we find our news, a Critical Thinking Toolbar overlaid on every article will enable a drastic change in how we consume news. It will empower us with balanced perspectives, debate and sources, every time we engage with news on Facebook.
We know you [Facebook] aren't fully to blame for our information crisis, but we wrote this letter to you because you may be the only one who has the resources and wherewithal to implement a fix for the world. After you implement a Critical Thinking Toolbar for Facebook, you could allow any website or app to install it, empowering the rest of the Internet with immediate access to knowledge and understanding everywhere we find news online. You can set the tone for a new digital academy of critical thinkers.
Every crisis is half danger and half opportunity.
In the case of our entertainment fake news brush fire, you [Facebook] have the opportunity to provide our world with a new standard for critical thinking, one that will empower our generation to rise out of ignorance and defend ourselves against false information. We are a digital generation in desperate need of this new standard to empower our free and educated thought.
We are all counting on you, Mark & Facebook!
Analog (Chris Purifoy) & Lost Poets