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Facebook...ugh...%$&#ing, Facebook

Facebook removes 800+ accounts this week, some with massive followings, for political content. The twist? They were US-based, not foreign. What does this mean for our use of social networks?

Facebook...ugh...%$&#ing, Facebook

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Reasonably Accurate 馃馃 Transcript

Good morning, everybody. How are you doing today? Um, another episode of Mornings with Mark. Thank you as always for joining me today. I wanted to talk about everybody's favorite social network. Facebook. Yay. Not really. Yay. I am sick of talking about it. I'm sure you are sick of hearing about it, but it's still an important thing to tackle.

So late yesterday afternoon, um, the Washington Post, um, had a great article was picked up, um through pretty much all the main, um, um, outlets on the fact that Facebook took down 800 plus accounts for spreading um, political, um, too much political information, political disinformation, you know, standard sort of large ranging sweep of accounts that were up to shady activities leading up to the US midterm elections.

The twist here was that the majority of these accounts, the vast majority of them were actually based in the US. They were not foreign influence, domestic influence trying to spread different stories about the US election. So this is the same attack we've seen time and time again.

It's a disinformation attack. The playbook is out there. People are using it if you start sort of looking at that gray line between political disinformation to spam campaign, to aggressive marketing, to legitimate marketing, to users trying to use the network. It's all great, right? In this case, political disinformation, Facebook took down the accounts.

The really interesting aspect is that domestic piece because especially in the US. Now again, you know, I'm not a US citizen, this is just from foreign outside looking in is, you know, domestic free speech makes this kind of thing. Really interesting. The reason why foreign accounts were able to be taken down when it comes to political influence.

And political ads was because there's actually election laws in the US against foreign organizations, foreign interests, advertising and promoting messages in the election. There's very strict rules and regulations around it, not so much for domestic. So the interesting thing here is that you can look at this as a disinformation attack, but it's one launched against objectively yourself.

It happens all the time. You know, you can make the argument, political advertising is all about this. It's about pushing forward one viewpoint. And, but the difference here is that we've gone from political where it's spin into outright disinformation. Now, that's a line that a lot of people um feel has been blurred um over the last little while.

And the reason why I want to talk about this today, it wasn't just that news article, it actually came up in a conversation I was having yesterday um with a fantastically intelligent person in my community. And we're talking about the difficulty um helping kids through school projects, ironically enough.

But um you know, kids are reaching the point where they're doing research online instead of when, you know, I'm old enough to remember. The only option was to go to the library and read through the encyclopedias, hope that they could get a book in on the topic you wanted.

Um But there was some sort of vetting process to get a book back in those days to have a book published. There were editors, there were legal checks, there was a whole bunch of things that made sure that the information that was in a book or in an encyclopedia was relatively verifiable or verified and, and, um, you know, reasonably accurate, there was still stuff that ran counter to the logic.

There was still stuff that wasn't correct, but the vast majority of things when you walked into your school library or public library, um, into the, uh, you know, informational section reference section, the vast majority of the stuff there had some level of, um, credibility, I guess is the best word.

Now, the challenge you have is I can publish anything on demand, I can publish anything online. How do you explain to kids what is a legitimate source and what isn't? And this was sort of the talk of the topic of the conversation we were having. And the challenge is immense because you can say, OK, well, you can check, you know, for a university website and see whether that's, you know, that should have a higher standing than, you know, Joe's blog.

But what if Joe happens to be a Professor Amateurs or prize winner in the field that you're actually interested in? Right. It's an absolutely immense problem for students in academia who are focused on looking for legitimate sources, not to mention the general public. And this really ties back to this Facebook takedown is that this is a question of how do we verify information in today's age?

Right? We see this all the time with rumors get spread, they go like wildfire, they go, you know, viral and all of a sudden we think a certain celebrities passed away or a certain thing happened when all the information wasn't presented or all the information wasn't even available.

And that's really what this takedown of these 800 plus accounts on all these pages on Facebook. Yesterday shows is that now we're into an area where when it comes to applying judgment, social networks aren't great about that. We as a public turns out aren't so great about that.

The previous stuff when election meddling was easy because there was a law against it. There was a standard for social networks to hold it to and could say this is a foreign influencer who is trying to attempt to influence the election or publishing content that goes strictly against this statute, we have to take it down when it comes to disinformation.

Now we're into an entire world of gray who's making the judgment call. What is the standard of information? Is it in fact illegal for somebody to basically lie and put out information, right? Free speech is um a tightly held principle in the United States in Canada.

We also hold free speech very high, but we have um different laws around free speech. You can't promote hate speech in Canada, for example, that's strictly against the law. Um So there's a little clearer, a little more um defined um legal aspects of what you can, you can't say here in Canada, in the States, it's pretty much fair game.

So it's really interesting and it's a really, um you know, objectively, if you take out the consequences, it's a really interesting thing to study from a cybersecurity from a privacy aspect from using social networks. You very much have to be careful what you see online, whether you trust it, whether you take action on it.

Um especially whether you vote on it, if you're basing your information um for a vote, whether that's, you know, in the States in Canada. Anywhere else, please please go through the extra effort to verify your sources to look for legitimate and unbiased sources. Whenever possible.

You want to make sure that you are making a decision based on information that you can trust, not just one that is pushed through on a social network that is designed to amplify the filters that you selected put in place. So it's going to get messier from here on out.

I got no good news for you on this one. I think it's, it's a fascinating area of psychology, of mass psychology, of organizational psychology, especially when we're dealing with these systems that are amplifying, you know, systems like social networks that are amplifying this information to scales.

Never before that we've had to deal with at speed that we've never had to deal with before. Uh What do you think? Let me know, hit me up online uh at marknca for those of you on the blogs as always in the comments down below and for everybody, but especially our podcast listeners,

How do you verify sources? I would love to um get some tips and tricks on that because I do present to um communities and families quite often and it's a really tough one to tell them um sources that I would use, you know, like something like a pub med um or uh an academic paper aren't appropriate for teens, especially younger teens necessarily.

So how do you verify sources? How do you help people on social networks verify them? How do you avoid this sort of? He said, she said, disinformation campaigns. What do you think of Facebook taking this action? Especially when there wasn't necessarily a clear law to hold those takedowns against.

Let me know. Let's have a discussion. That's the only way we make it through this. I hope you are set up for a fantastic day and a wonderful weekend. Um I will see you on the show on Monday and talk to you online.

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