Sally Kohn: Don’t like clickbait? Don’t click

Speaker

Sally Kohn is a liberal political commentator, community organizer, and founder and chief education officer of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank. Kohn was a contributor for the Fox News Channel.

Summary

The internet can be a nasty place, and has been shown to be much worse if you are gay, a woman, or a person of colour. Sally herself has found a fake twitter account which accuses her of being a bull dike, a man hater, and someone who only talks to spread her ‘perverse sexuality’.

However, if everyone hates this, we can change it by making a small sacrifice. People are no longer passive receivers of a media run by elites – no longer is the world divided into media creators and media consumers. By reading twitter or posting to a blog we are making a public act. We decide what gets attention by clicking on something – algorithms will decide that is what you need to see more of.

60% of Americans think America is becoming incivil, but they also click these the same ridiculously worded rumour-mongering articles. In an increasingly noisy media landscape, there are more incentives to make as much noise as possible. The tyranny of the loud encourages the nastiest comments. We need to change the incentives.

When you see someone abused, do something – drown out the negative with the positive. And don’t click on nasty and inane stories – it only encourages more of them. Clicking on them will force more stories of the same to appear.

My Thoughts

Good advice to all – however I disagree with her about ‘doing something’ to online trolls. By ‘being a hero’ and fighting nasty comments, you are giving them merit. By responding to a nasty article or a nasty person, you are triggering another incentive in both the article and the trolls. The articles are nasty because that generates controversy – by responding to an article you are feeding that controversy.

Beyond that – spread the word to others. Don’t click on garbage – it only encourages more garbage.

Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online

Speaker

Markham Nolan – managing editor of Storyful.com, Markham Nolan has watched journalism evolve from the pursuit of finding facts to the act of verifying those floating in the ether.

Summary

Markham has been a journalist since he was 17, but the way people access news is changing, and the people who write news is changing. In the modern age, readers access news in real-time, with journalists playing catchup to collect news from their readers. For example an earthquake in Costa Rica was reported by a citizen on Twitter within 30seconds of it occurring – meaning anyone in the world could know about it within 30 seconds. However, massive amounts of data are uploaded to the internet every second so how do you filter it and work out what is true?

During Hurricane Sandy real photos were posted alongside jokes and fakes, leaving journalists to filter through to find the truth. Instead of the old model of finding the story, their job was to hold back the untrue stories. One tool to identify truth was to identify who was telling it. They followed a conversation by looking at re-tweets, and identified the most influential people. These could then be investigated further to build up a contact directory of genuine sources.

Markham discusses a Youtube video of a violent storm and an unseen woman filming it. It was an amazing clip – journalistic gold, but it needed verification first. The username was Rita Krill, with only a single video uploaded. First they used free tools to identify Rita Krills in a number of cities, then cross-checked with wolfram-alpha to find which cities had violent weather on the day of uploading. Then White pages for addresses, and Google maps to find a swimming pool featured in the video. They could then call her and verified it was true.

Sometimes verifying truth in Youtube videos is extremely important – when they depict war crimes. A video allegedly of Muslim Brotherhood members tossing bloodied bodies off a bridge near Hamah for example. To verify, they looked for details of the bridge itself – the shape of railings or direction of shadows (to identify it is an East-West bridge). They used Google Maps to find East-West bridges around Hamah, then photos of the bridge to check the railings and other features from the video, successfully identifying a bridge near Hamah that matched the one in the video. They verified the location a video was filmed using free tools within 20minutes, from an office in Dublin thousands of kilometers away from the video’s origin.

Although the web is a torrent of information, with a few clues you can work out amazing things. We have amazing tools and algorithms to filter the info, but these tend to be binary (in or out). However truth is not binary, it is a variable, it is emotional and fluid. No matter how good computers get, humans cannot be removed from the truth-finding, because truth is such a human trait.