The Problem Of Fake News

The problem of fake news bothered me throughout the election, with friends and family regularly sharing stories that were complete bullshit, demonstrating very little awareness about the origin and truth of what they were sharing. I feel this is a problem that Facebook and Twitter should work to address, but there is only so much blame we can throw in this direction, at some point we need to step up and be the change we want to see as well.

Being intimate with the business models of Twitter and Facebook, I'm just not convinced the current incentive model will result in them doing anything about the "fake news", or I prefer to call it, the "real propaganda" problem. The web (Google) is built using advertising, and social media (Twitter & Facebook) have followed this playbook--making all of this about clicks, views, and shares--something they just will not be that interested in changing. Even if they say they are fixing it, I'm unsure they'll truly do what they say.

While we should be pushing back on these platforms to do better at filtering out "fake news" and "real propaganda", as well as cutting off access to their advertising networks for these sites, I wanted to do more to understand just exactly what was going on. To kick things off, I got to work pulling together a list of some of the common propaganda sites and spun up an Amazon EC2 server to bet to work pulling all the URLs from each domain, to better understand how these sites are operating, as well as how their content is being shared.

Everything is available on Github, and via what I'm calling domain literacy.

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