Culture

The internet is crowdsourcing ways to drain the fake news swamp

Pundits and even President Obama are bemoaning fake news stories that appeared online leading up to the election. A solution might be found in an open Google Doc.

"Filter Bubble" author and Google Doc creator Eli Pariser.

Jen Campbell

Fighting the scourge of fake news online is one of the unexpected new crusades emerging from the fallout of Donald Trump's upset presidential election win last week. Not surprisingly, the internet has no shortage of ideas for how to get its own house in order.

Eli Pariser, author of the seminal book "The Filter Bubble" that pre-saged some of the consequences of online platforms that tend to sequester users into non-overlapping ideological silos, is leading an inspired brainstorming effort via this open Google Doc.

Pariser put out the public call to collaborate via Twitter on Thursday and within 24 hours 21 pages worth of bullet-pointed suggestions has already piled up in the doc.

Suggestions ranged from the common call for news aggregators and social media platforms to hire more human editors, to launching more media literacy programs or creating "credibility scores" for shared content and/or users who share or report fake news.

Many of the suggestions are aimed at Facebook, which has taken a heavy heaping of criticism since the election and a recent report that found the top fake election news stories saw more engagement on Facebook than the top real election stories. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was initially incredulous at the idea that Facebook could sway the election, but it's been reported that the company may have abandoned an update developed to fight fake news in ways like those suggested in Pariser's Google Doc.

In addition to the crowdsourced brainstorming approach, plenty of others are chiming in with possible solutions. Author, blogger and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis teamed up with entrepreneur and investor John Borthwick of Betaworks to lay out 15 concrete ideas for addressing fake news on Medium Friday morning. CNET News Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo has also proposed a simple fix: maybe Google and Facebook can just stop calling the fake stuff "news."

All these ideas aren't going away when the news cycle moves on to the next big story (fake or otherwise). The Trust Project at Santa Clara University is working to develop solutions to attack fake news that include systems for author verification and citations. It's also planning a "hack" event with news organizations in the coming weeks to work on ways to elevate the real stuff from all the fakeness.

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