Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

How Pro-Trump Forces Work the Refs in Silicon Valley

Ben Smith, New York Times:

But the referees who really matter nowadays are no longer the big media companies. The new referees are the Silicon Valley giants that control what we see when we search, browse or post online. But some in the news media learned lessons from back then, ones that Silicon Valley chief executives would be wise to reflect on this election season.

The biggest one is about false balance, and false symmetry. The American right and left have never been mirror images of each other. They’re different sorts of coalitions, with different histories and strategies.

And in the Trump era, a specific kind of misinformation on social media is a central tactic of the right. President Trump says false and misleading things at a remarkable rate — more than 20,000 so far in his presidency, according to a Washington Post tracker — and a whole constellation of blogs and websites, like The Gateway Pundit, support and amplify that strategy.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are making the same mistakes the news media made decades ago, looking for balance rather than confronting the plain reality of the moment.

This entire article is very good and is worth your time, but one section in particular seems to be misinterpreted:

But “the C.E.O. of Google can’t just come out and say, ‘The signals your site is sending and fact-checks on your content have created a problem for our company, and therefore we down-rank it,’” said Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. “Admitting that humans are often at the helm of decisions to curate content implies they are a media company and not simply infrastructure.”

Steve Katz, publisher of Mother Jones, believes this is the case because, if Google et al. admit that they adjust ranking signals, they “are *publishers* and not platforms, [and] the entire regulatory rulebook changes”. This argument is nonsense. The sole reason Google cannot directly say that humans are involved is because it would be a public relations nightmare. But it would be the right and honest thing to do.