For immediate release | Wednesday, May 22, 2019

CEP’s Dr. Hany Farid: “Blame has to be with the Social Media Companies that are Designed to Promote” Fake News

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With “Fake News,” CEP Releases Fifth of Nine-Part Series on Online Extremism

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released the fifth of a nine-part video series featuring CEP Senior Adviser Dr. Hany Farid, an incoming professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In this week’s video, titled "Fake News," Dr. Farid asserts that the blame for the proliferation of fake news online has to be shouldered squarely by tech companies like Google-owned YouTube. Their algorithms, designed to entice as many clicks as possible from the end user, sensationalize and exacerbate the spread of outrageous content.

As Dr. Farid states, “On the one hand, you could blame the Russians if we want. We can blame the people who are trying to make money off of the ads on fake news. But at the end of the day, I think that’s the wrong place to place blame. Blame has to be with the social media companies that are designed to promote this material, and they know they’re doing it. I don’t think YouTube wants to promote conspiracies, but the algorithms are designed to promote the sensational, to promote the outrageous and to promote the things that get you to click and to engage with content.

Please find a transcript for "Fake News" below.

“The fake news phenomenon is really startling for a couple of reasons. The fake news phenomenon has been linked with election tampering. It has been linked with conspiracy theories. It has been linked with violence against groups. And so now you have to distinguish between a hundred percent fake and a hundred percent real and everything in between, and then you have to distinguish between satire and not satire. And that’s incredibly complicated.

“On the one hand, you can blame the Russians if we want. We can blame the people who are trying to make money off of the ads on fake news. But at the end of the day, I think that’s the wrong place to place blame. Blame has to be with the social media companies that are designed to promote this material, and they know they’re doing it. I don’t think YouTube wants to promote conspiracies, but the algorithms are designed to promote the sensational, to promote the outrageous and to promote the things that get you to click and to engage with content.

“The news is boring. The sensational news is exciting, and it engages. And so the algorithms are simply responding. I think the way that we’re going to have to deal with this immediately is a combination of education to the public; it’s a combination of corporate responsibility to limit the distribution of this, and then it’s going to have to be technologies that start rolling out to automatically detect it. We have got to get a handle on this, from the technology side of things, from the social media responsibility side of things.”

Please find additional videos from the series below:

April 24: Intro

May 1: Internet

May 9: eGLYPH

May 16: Misuse

May 22: Fake News