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Did Facebook Just Finally Kill Off Hoax News?
Yesterday Facebook updated the News Feed to attempt to prevent the spread of hoax news stories. What will the fallout look like?
Yesterday Facebook quietly announced that it is updating the News Feed in order to show fewer hoax stories — a subject that has become a somewhat regular theme on this blog, partially due to Facebook's ever growing capacity to propel false science news into millions of people's news feeds. Now, if you hide an item from your news feed you will have the option to report it as a false news story:
If lots of people report the story as false, the story will begin to show up less in other people's news feeds and when it does show up it will be flagged as potentially containing false information:
According to Facebook, early tests indicate that the update is unlikely to affect genuine satire - which I've previously defended against a similar Facebook update which attempted to label posts containing satire. If the update leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you are right to have concerns about censorship — there is certainly potential for abuse. There is however a strong case for the update — hoax news stories have a tendency to massively outperform articles debunking hoaxes. This is a continual cause of frustration to me, only yesterday I debunked the outlandish claim that transplant patients take on their donors' personalities - the Facebook shares for my article remain in double digits, while the article I'm debunking has ten thousand shares and continues to be shared three years after publication. Last week I debunked the false claim that half of all children will be autistic by 2025, my piece has been shared just over a thousand times — a drop in the ocean compared to the hundred thousand shares each of the two articles it debunks have acquired.
I'm hoping Facebook's new update will allow me to finally stop being distracted by the continual stream of misleading viral science news stories — which believe it or not I really do find excruciatingly boring — and return my attention to what really gets me excited — genuinely interesting scientific research. Another good argument for this update is that debunking hoax news stories as I do, can actually be counterproductive. A growing body of research shows that when you debunk a false claim using evidence you can in fact leave believers of the false claim more likely to believe the claim than if you did nothing at all, unless you are very careful. If there is a good way to halt the spread of the misinformation at source, this option may be far superior to the cat and mouse game of scrambling to debunk the information after the event. I sincerely hope appropriate safeguards have been put in place so that views that are simply controversial don't get caught in the crossfire. It sounds like Facebook is indeed taking this responsibility seriously and acting to ensure posts that are flagged as hoaxes aren't merely unpopular by looking for indicators that might give away bona fide hoaxes:
"People often share these hoaxes and later decide to delete their original posts after they realize they have been tricked. These types of posts also tend to receive lots of comments from friends letting people know this is a hoax, and comments containing links to hoax-busting websites. In fact, our testing found people are two times more likely to delete these types of posts after receiving such a comment from a friend."
Footnote: Recently some Facebook pages have been hit by a scam that fooled page owners into informing their followers that they were being shut down by Facebook after their pages had been supposedly reported for abuse. It later emerged that this threat was in fact the result of a hoax itself, so watch out - this particular hoax is only going to become more virulent now that its narrative has a plausible basis in reality.
Image Credit: Shutterstock, Facebook
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.