[LMB] OT: Governor’s Orders

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Mon Nov 16 00:18:17 GMT 2020

---- On Sun, 15 Nov 2020 15:39:27 -0800 Joel Polowin <mailto:jpolowin at hotmail.com> wrote ----

An epidemiologist who happens to be writing on Facebook is more reliable
than what you might hear from, say, a cooking show or whatever's
replaced Prairie Home Companion for you on NPR.  The determining factor
isn't the medium; it's the originator of the material.

Beatrice Otter:
True, as far as it goes. However, the caveat is this: it is far easier to double-check the originator of the material on NPR or a mainstream news site than it is on Facebook. If it is directly posted by an epidemiologist, someone you can check who they are and if they're employed at a university or a research lab or work for the government or something, that's one thing (presuming you actually ... checked, and not just assumed that they were an epidemiologist just because they said they were). However, what you get a lot of on Facebook is not posts directly by experts, or at least those aren't the ones that go (pardon the pun) viral. What you get are people posting inflammatory things that they *say* are from whoever.

The whole point of Facebook, what they make money on, is to keep people scrolling their site as long as possible. And to keep people engaged as possible. And guess what! Things that are enraging or terrifying or whatnot make you more likely to stay engaged with their site. You're more likely to comment, more likely to share, more likely to stay there fuming and refreshing the page to see what that idiot said now. So their algorithm deliberately skews towards things that will provoke those who see them. If you follow someone, you are far more likely to see their controversial hot take than you are to hear news of their daily life. People have known this for years. When people take advantage of this and skew their posts this way for purely personal benefit, to get more followers and such, it's bad enough; but a lot of very nasty people deliberately use this to spread misinformation, division, and fear. And even today, Facebook makes only minimal efforts to weed out those people/groups that are deliberately spreading misinformation in order to weaken the American body politic, because Facebook makes a ton of money on those people/groups.

So it's not that you *can't* find good information on Facebook; it's totally possible to do so. However, the signal to noise ratio is ATROCIOUS, and you will have to weed out the truth from the firehose of bad information pointed straight at your face.

Beatrice Otter

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list