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Bombarded by Disinformation, 'We're on Our Own'

Kara Swisher writes for the 'NYT' that tech companies haven't been terribly helpful in fighting bad actors
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2018 4:50 PM CST
Some of the Facebook and Instagram ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and stir up tensions around divisive social issues, released by members of the US House Intelligence...   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

(Newser) – What's "dead clear": Propaganda pushers have been using platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter "exactly as they were designed to be used." What we're just now learning: that those companies were more or less useless on the front lines against disinformation and "fake news," and that now "we're on our own." That's per tech journalist Kara Swisher, who writes in an op-ed for the New York Times that there's a "high-stakes information war" being waged, including by Russian trolls, and the "foot-dragging tech giants" haven't been pulling their weight in fighting against it, claiming they didn't fully know what was going on both as it was happening and even after things seemed to be pointing toward nefarious uses of their platforms.

Swisher's solution: It's time for them to act less like "bystanders" and start revamping their systems so there's much more transparency and fixes for the long term. She predicts the government will soon step in with more regulations to try to get a handle on things, but it will be a challenge, if not impossible, because of our good-faith commitment to democratic tenets like free speech, which are no match for bad actors determined to manipulate them. The only clear weapon we have at our disposal right now, per Swisher, is to be extra-vigilant about what news we consume and share. "Before you hit the retweet button, before you hit the share button, just take the extra second … to do the fact-check," a disinformation expert tells her. Swisher's own advice: "See something, say nothing." More of her take here. (A big-name colleague of Swisher's recently ditched Facebook.)

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