Here is some data analysis on fake news from buzzfeed:
In case you haven’t already, check the article out: How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook.
And in the aftermath of the Trump-will-soon-be-the-leader-of-the-free-world debacle:
- Both Facebook and Google are being accused of having handed Trump the presidency by allowing fake news sites to run viral through their advertising (Facebook) and Adsense (Google) sales.
- One fake news site person feels guilty that he may have influenced the election. Poor thing.
Now there are calls to ban fake news from social media platforms.
As though that’s even a possible thing. Because what is truth, and your truth is not my truth, and I dare you to try and draw solid lines between true and mostly true and half true and barely true and satirical and sarcastic and misleading and verging-on-fraudulent and your pants be on fire, sir.
Which leads us to one really existential truth: we can’t tell the difference.
Instead, we’re forced to:
- Have our own set of beliefs about the world, and measure the truthiness of facts against them; and
- Find a select number of news sources that we believe to be trustworthy, and rely on them to deliver news stories that are more truth-ish than not.
Now it is concerning that fake news sites that came out of Macedonia may have had an effect on the American presidential election, but that’s not really the point of this post.
Let’s talk about algorithms
The world that we live in is incredibly influenced by sets of algorithms that trade based on news. Exchange rates, stock markets, commodity prices, bond yields: those are all influenced by these mathematical equations that take the designer’s beliefs about the world and codify them into rigid trading rules.
Remember the flash crash in the pound? Supposedly caused by a rogue algorithm overreacting to a piece of news.
Now imagine a world where fake news and real news are indistinguishable for human readers – to the point where fake news articles achieve higher circulation than real news.
Then replace those human readers with blind algorithms that are make bets with big money on the back of said news content.
Does it feel like dystopian science fiction?
Well, bad news, guys…
Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.