I spent some time studying the "fake news" problem over the holidays to prepare me for speaking intelligently on the topic. I fired up a bunch of Amazon servers, gathered a bunch of data about what has been going on, but as of this weekend I put a pause on the work, publishing what I had gathered to Github, and set the project on the back burner to simmer for a while.
After running around 30 separate servers for a week, I felt like these resources could be better spent educating people about the digital world around us, not battling the well-equipped, and ever evolving disinformation groups that seem to thrive online. It is no secret that white men are good at the Internet, something that became even more evident with the whole gamergate shitstorm, but is something that has reached alarming levels during this election. After evaluating almost 350 domains engaging in disinformation campaigns, one thing became very clear--white angry men are good at the Internet, and amplifying the (dis)information that supports their view of the world.
From a technical standpoint, I'm perfectly happy mapping out these domains, understanding who is behind (or not) each of these efforts, and the organized search and social efforts behind them. From a human standpoint, I can't keep wading through their hatred, and validating that yet another site is spreading hate, and that spending my money on compute and storage capacity, to map out, define, and quantify this world is not the healthiest and most sustainable way forward for me.
I am better off educating one or two people at a time about being more critical in how we use the Internet. Helping the average individual establish, define, and defend their own domain(s), while also learning to sensibly operate in other leading domains like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and beyond. I do not feel like there is a technological fix to get us out of the "fake news" situation. I feel like this needs to be a human solution, and my time is better spent helping contribute to digital literacy, and not engaging with or defining the worst domains in the Internet realms.