Ads are fake news

Great article by @OutOnALumb for @engadget, posted to our Slack by @toiye 51 percent of tech experts say fake news can’t be fixed

My comment got too long for the text box, so I’m going to finish it here:

100 percent of this tech expert says advertising and fake news on Facebook are the exact same thing. In broadcast and print there are legislated standards regarding truth in advertising.

There are no such standards in digital. Facebook insists that “ads are user content”, i.e. are expressions that must be treated like all other expressions, except in three cases: a) when Facebook is paid to promote them, b) when Facebook’s algorithm, which is the work of humans, promotes or suppresses them, or c) when humans at Facebook make a unilateral decision, explained or not, to promote or suppress them.

It’s unreasonable to ask all Facebook users to understand this. It’s unreasonable to expect even all readers of news, all readers of tech news, or even all readers of tech news focused on the problems baked into the digital ad model, to understand this. But it’s eminently reasonable to expect every adult on the Facebook executive team and Board of Directors to understand this perfectly.

That’s what’s so perplexing to me. I don’t believe they are bad people. I believe they are good people who tried to make something beautiful, and in many respects succeeded. But this fake news problem can’t be tuned or fixed by Facebook or Google — it is, as engineers say, a feature, not a bug. Arguably it’s even more than a feature: it is the core commercial product.

Without standards and compulsory disclosures, “ads” and “fake news” are different names for a single thing on ad-dependent digital services that decline editorial responsibility.

Side note: really feeling for David Lumb if he’s a burrito snob who lives in NYC, as his Twitter bio states.