Brave new world
There is very little doubt in my mind that the next front in the War on Stupid will play out across a field of algorithms. It already is to an increasing degree, as people discover endless mountains of content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. There’s so much content that it’s actually difficult to process, and so the algorithm tries to act as benevolent filter — arranging content into the most enjoyable experience possible (or at least the experience that will keep you glued to the newsfeed as long as possible, which isn’t nearly the same incentive as “delivering the highest quality content.”) And it’s working. As Facebook has decreased account holders’ organic reach, it’s stock valuation has increased. They have shareholder expectations to meet.
The challenge, then, becomes not just creating high quality content, but also delivering it effectively to the people who want it. You might have more content to share, but the window through which you can reach your “owned” audience is getting smaller by the week. Reach been eroded over several years, slowly enough that it wouldn’t be too noticeable — just a little something between the cat and baby photos. Soon paid social media will be a requirement of every content creator, slowly flooding the channel until it’s spoiled by commercialism and everyone moves on to Snapchat or whatever the next Snapchat will be.
But maybe that’s not news to you. What sent me down this path was an interesting article on Poynter discussing the challenge now presented by the algorithm in regards to corrections and fact-checking, because:
- a) it’s an easy medium for misinformation, and
- b) once someone has seen a piece of misinformation on Facebook, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that they see any follow-up corrections.
Facebook owns access to the largest audience of any channel on any media at any point in human history, but there is no “for the public good” social compact included, as had once been with institutional newspapers and broadcast networks. Those sunsetting media formats held consistent audience because of the limited number of media channels, and so had better chance of issuing corrections that would be seen by many of the same people who witnessed the informational transgression. Now, there is localized and individualized streams of information creating unprecedented audience fragmentation simultaneously with the algorithmic filtering of one’s content stream and the decrease in a publisher’s ability to consistent reach the same audience day-to-day. It’s a complete and total nightmare for correcting errors and limiting exposure to totally fake shit.
From the Buzzfeed article on the other end of the last link:
“…fake news sites still enjoy widespread reach on Facebook, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis of post engagement data across nine top fake news sites. In many ways, it is the golden age of fake news. Easy access to publishing tools makes it easier than ever to create news sources meant to mislead. And social distribution channels give the stories published by these outlets a clear path to the masses.”