Fake News. What’s really B.S. and how do we get rid of it?

Kelly Strain

fake news

If you have been on the internet this week you are aware of the fake news crisis spiralling out of control. But just in case you missed it, recent headlines read something like this: Facebook is being blamed for Trump’s election, Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites, Facebook’s fake news crisis deepens.

With great power comes great responsibility

Facebook has over 1 billion active users who utilize the platform to post, share and comment on news. When Facebook was accused of influencing the election, Zuckerberg was quick to say that was a “pretty crazy idea.” Is it really that crazy? Facebook has become a catalyst for the spread of fake news given the ease of it’s “share” button. Regardless, fake news isn’t going away anytime soon, it will likely worsen and while Facebook has taken steps to limit the sites’ use of their ad networks, there has been no push to eliminate fake news from the News Feed.

This daunting issue is not Facebook’s alone. Any platform that allows user generated content would be wise to get out ahead of this growing problem in order to prevent this spam and protect their brand. 

It’s complicated, but not impossible

Google is not new to this fight. They have spent years attempting to minimize the spread of spam/fake links and misleading content. To combat this, Google built an algorithm that prioritizes the quality and relevance of an article.

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

  • PR(A) is the PageRank of page A,
  • PR(Ti) is the PageRank of pages Ti which link to page A,
  • C(Ti) is the number of outbound links on page Ti and
  • d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1

PageRank follows this general rule of thumb: the more links there are directing to a specific page containing the search keyword, the more popular it is. As pages get more popular the weight of their votes increase proportionally and the resulting score increases.

People can still write anything (fake or not), but not just any piece of content will show up in the first few pages of a Google search result. As a result of this vetting process people still trust the quality and validity of articles on Google searches. Facebook would be wise to follow Google’s lead.

Authority matters

Google’s algorithm for determining quality rests on attention, if people are linking to a site or visiting that site, it is considered more worthwhile than a site with fewer inbound links and fewer visits (assuming all other things are equal). Google then uses that relative worth, or authority, to value outbound links. The more authoritative a site is that links to an article the more value Google gives that link.

Attention = value = authority.

For fake news it is much more difficult. Attention doesn’t necessarily = truth or authority. Facebook has proven that many times over. So, what does?

It is important to not only assess the quality of the shared content, but the authority of the people who share it. A authoritative user could flag an article as fake, and if a threshold was crossed the article could be marked as untrusted. The problem is: how does a user become authoritative? And, what safeguards prevent an authoritative user from misusing their power?

Authority is a problem we have had to tackle for our CleanSpeak clients that utilize comment/article/user reporting. A user may report a comment or article, not because it’s fake, spam or hateful, but because they don’t agree with it. CleanSpeak applies a model to every user’s behavior, which yields an authority value. Reports on messages or users are taken in aggregate and weighted based on those authorities.

While newly available extensions can create alerts based off of a manual list of False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources, this might not catch everything. It’s a great start, but authoritative users should have the ability tag and flag sources, too (as the number of these fake news sites is bound to outgrow the list.)

Get in Our Shirt!

Kelly Strain

Inversoft is giving away free T-shirts. No credit card required. No sales call. No strings attached, really.

user rock shirt

We love developers so much that we want you to have one of our (super soft, kicka$$) shirts when you sign up for Passport. Sign up today and get your free shirt. It’s that easy.

Passport becomes a complete user backend, providing important user management features via a simple REST JSON API.  Why reinvent the wheel by building login, registration, single sign on and more? We build the features. You launch your application. Simple. Every application can benefit from Passport – whether you have 100 users or 100 million users. (Here’s why) Once you see how easy it is to integrate with Passport (use our client libraries/SDKs for fast integrations) using Passport will be a no-brainer.

How to Get the Free Shirt:

  1. Try Passport here.
  2. Click Register Now to create a new account.
  3. On the registration page check the free t-shirt box. Please enter your preferred size and address.
  4. Install (or let us install) Passport and begin adding users.
  5. Check your mail for your free t-shirt!

Shirt SignUp

NO credit card or purchase necessary. We want you to try our product and would greatly appreciate your valuable feedback. Please tweet and spread the word. We know Passport is awesome and think you’ll agree.

Please note: We can only ship shirts to users who live in the United States at the moment. Apologies to our international users.

Free Passport Developers License

We want to remind you that we still offer a free developers license with our on-premise (server) Passport solution.

Try it now. 

What’s Included:

  • All the features of Passport User Database and Management API
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Hacktivist Protests Poor Security Practices

Kelly Strain

security ghost in the shell

 

GhostShell leaked an estimated 36 million account details from 110 poorly configured MongoDB servers. This hack, dubbed Project Vori Dazel, marks one of the largest breaches this year.                                                                                                                          

“I am leaking more than 36 million accounts/records of internal data from [networks] to raise awareness about what happens when you decide not to even add a username and password as root or check for open ports, let alone encrypt the data.” GhostShell via Pastebin

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Passport Named Top Innovator by DeveloperWeek

Kelly Strain

 

Passport Award Developer Week 2016

We are honored to announce that Passport User Management won the DeveloperWeek 2016 Award for Top Innovator in API Services. We want thank everyone who voted and our team who works tirelessly to create high-quality software that real customers need and can rely on.

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News of the Week: Cyber-bullying in New Zealand

Brian Pontarelli

New Zealand recently enacted a bill that will make cyber-bullying illegal and punishable for the bully and the company that hosts the application used for the bullying.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11473545

Though there were a few legislators that voted against the bill, the vote was an overwhelming 116 to 5.

Opponents believe that this will impact free speech and that determining if specific user-generated content is in fact cyber-bullying could be difficult or impossible.

From my perspective, I don’t feel this bill impacts free speech. It is similarly illegal to harass or threaten someone in person, so why should it be any different online?

Furthermore, identifying user-generated content that is cyber-bullying shouldn’t be overly difficult. If someone feels cyber-bullied and reports the issue, that should be enough to investigate. Likewise, companies can also use automated solutions like CleanSpeak to help get alerts when conversations look like they contain cyber-bullying. Companies can let moderators make the final judgement and remove the content from their applications and/or kick the bully out as well.

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