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Lies, damned lies, and Facebook

“I saw on Facebook that …” No. Stop. You didn’t see anything on Facebook. You saw something that Facebook wanted you to click on.

I think at this point it’s pretty clear that the “Brexit” aftermath — to say nothing of the political landscape in the United States — points to a sad reality.

We don’t know what the hell we’re talking about anymore. And I’m prepared to squarely lay the blame on one thing.


OK, that’s not entirely true. I blame ourselves. We have all the power here, and none of the will. We scroll through our feeds in the morning — some 1 billion people every single day — and see all sorts of shocking clickbait. (You think one thing was going to happen. But when you click it, your jaw dropped!) It’s generally pretty easy to identify, but we all click anyway.

More dangerous is the stuff that sounds plausible. Britons search for “What is the EU?” after the Brexit vote? Sure. But it’s bullshit data, as former Googler Dan Morril rightfully pointed out.

“True enough” may be good enough to share, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually true.

Or the one that got me going early Saturday morning? “Google Play: Malicious Apps That Could Affect 90 Percent of Android Devices Discovered in App Store.” That one was also true, but also bullshit. All you had to do was actually read the source material (and Jerry did a great job getting even more information from the source material behind that) to find out that, the “90 percent of Android devices” stuff was flat-out wrong. And that the exploit was fixed a year ago. And that this was yet another example of a security company trying to get you to buy its shit.

Those are but two examples from the past two days. And I’m not exactly telling anyone anything they shouldn’t have already known here.

The question is why don’t we care? We do we refuse to put in even minimal effort to read more than one source. To read stories that maybe we disagree with, in hopes of becoming better informed about, well, all the things. To go just a little further than reading a summary on Facebook, then sharing it haphazardly.

Facebook indeed is all about bringing the world together. But that’s to serve its greater purpose — to keep you clicking on things in Facebook. That’s why we have clickbait headlines. That’s why algorithms show you what you think you want to see.

Whether it’s true or not? That’s for you to figure out. Or not.

A few other thoughts on things …

That’s it for this week. See y’all Monday.

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