15 votes

How could we regulate biased/lying media outlets and aggregators without encroaching on good ones?

I find this to be a pretty important question when news organizations like Fox News are literally aiming to help the Republican Party to stay on power, CNN and MSNBC promote centrist candidates and media aggregators ranging from r/the_donald to r/chapotraphouse banning anyone who opposes them. Thing is, these are the most well known examples. How could we tell faulty media sources and aggregators apart from good ones in mass? Do you think that's possible?

23 comments

  1. [7]
    Akir
    Link
    The problems with news today is not that they are lying, but that they are misleading. I don't think that it's beyond the average person to understand bias, but the reason why everything is so...

    The problems with news today is not that they are lying, but that they are misleading. I don't think that it's beyond the average person to understand bias, but the reason why everything is so misleading is because of the way it is conveyed. Take Fox news for an example; they deliberately deliniate the differences between their actual news and their oppinion so that their oppinion becomes the news.

    But even if that were not a problem, the current television news format is also problematic. To put things bluntly, TV news tells you the story long before it's actually done. And because of that people draw their own conclusions about it according to their own world view. Worse, it encourages repeat coverage after every update, which has the effect of making that story appear to be the most important, which is almost never the case.

    Of course, these kinds of things happen in other news media as well - especially online news sources.

    I remember a quote a while back that said "the point of reading the news is to become more informed, but watching Fox News makes you less informed". The truth of the matter is that most news outlets have the same problem.

    13 votes
    1. [6]
      Death
      Link Parent
      I've always been impressed by the observation Jon Stewart made about the 24hr news cycle. It's designed to entice people with quick, instant information but it's either incomplete or kind of...

      I've always been impressed by the observation Jon Stewart made about the 24hr news cycle. It's designed to entice people with quick, instant information but it's either incomplete or kind of deliberately provocative or conflict-driven to attract viewers. The news make things seem more important than they are through repeat updates, and this in turn creates demand for updates as people start searching for more info.

      This is hard to solve in the internet age. Because wrong info will fill the vacuum left by a lack of info. The long term solution, as they did in Finland and as people like Tom Scott have said, is to make media literacy a mandatory civic skill and to instruct people in ways to avoid fake news and to wait for reliable sources, but that's a long shot.

      10 votes
      1. [5]
        JXM
        Link Parent
        Teaching media literacy would be great. I learned "real world skills" like balancing a checkbook and cooking in school, in addition to things like science and math. Media literacy should be on...

        Teaching media literacy would be great. I learned "real world skills" like balancing a checkbook and cooking in school, in addition to things like science and math. Media literacy should be on that list.

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          Death
          Link Parent
          I can very easily imagine media literacy being part of a general civic studies curriculum. Similarly to how in some countries kids have to learn about the functions of national government and...

          I can very easily imagine media literacy being part of a general civic studies curriculum. Similarly to how in some countries kids have to learn about the functions of national government and different national authorities.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            Akir
            Link Parent
            Now that I think about it, we already are teaching children the very basics of media literacy in the US. Every high school student learns how to write a basic research paper as part of the English...

            Now that I think about it, we already are teaching children the very basics of media literacy in the US. Every high school student learns how to write a basic research paper as part of the English curriculum, and I've always heard teachers talking about finding reliable sources. To expand upon that would be very cromulent.

            I have noticed that there has been a global societal-level lowering of standards for a number of different things in the past few years. For instance, it used to be common sense to not give your personal information online, but you can't access the largest websites in the world without giving them license to spy on you. A lot of things that wouldn't have been socially allowed have become commonplace; some of it has been good (we accept openly gay people in society!), but some of it has been bad (we're certainly much more accepting of nazis now than we used to be!). I can't help but wonder if they are linked somehow, but I can't begin to wonder how.

            3 votes
            1. Death
              Link Parent
              Yes, I've also had a degree of "digital education" in middle school, focused mostly on not always trusting sources online (wikipedia being the favorite) and not to give data to strangers. Media...

              Yes, I've also had a degree of "digital education" in middle school, focused mostly on not always trusting sources online (wikipedia being the favorite) and not to give data to strangers.

              Media literacy, though, also has to focus on the more specific aspects of how news is reported, how biases are inherent to the process, and how to recognize when somebody might be misleading people. A lot of this simply isn't explored in English classes, which focuses much more on literary studies, because it's often been judged to be the domain of journalism or communication studies. But perhaps it's time to extend this to the general curriculum.

              3 votes
  2. [2]
    seizethegoddamngap
    Link
    I've thought about this a little and have some suggestions, but haven't thought much about the unintended consequences/loopholes, so feel free to poke holes in my argument, as I'm sure there will...

    I've thought about this a little and have some suggestions, but haven't thought much about the unintended consequences/loopholes, so feel free to poke holes in my argument, as I'm sure there will be quite a few.

    • We need to do some major trust-busting in every single facet of media and go back to older FCC rules that state a corporation is only allowed to own a certain amount of stations/markets.

    • After trust-busting, the word "news" in LLC/corporations/entities titles should be regulated/"licensed" to organizations that adhere to a certain set of rules, encorced by either the FCC or a new governmental agency.

    • Obviously, this is a big Fist Amendment no-no, so the ruleset needs to be drawn up by a combination of media entities; basically a constitutional convention for the media.

    • Two of the rules that must be included. 1.) Intentionally reporting false information x amount of times in one week/month/year results in y punsihment, ultimate punishment would be the revocation of your "news" license. 2.) No advertising during a "news" segment.

    8 votes
    1. Kuromantis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I agree. The idea of a 'subsidiary company' is really lofty with very few exceptions, and dangerous when it's applied to news. We should either let all subsidiary companies reporting news be...

      We need to do some major trust-busting in every single facet of media and go back to older FCC rules that state a corporation is only allowed to own a certain amount of stations/markets.

      I agree. The idea of a 'subsidiary company' is really lofty with very few exceptions, and dangerous when it's applied to news. We should either let all subsidiary companies reporting news be independent or force them to drop their branding and be absorbed by their parent company or turned into a category of content within their parent company, like a subgroup on tildes, but more independent.

      • After trust-busting, the word "news" in LLC/corporations/entities titles should be regulated/"licensed" to organizations that adhere to a certain set of rules, enforced by either the FCC or a new governmental agency.

      I agree, although I don't really know how much of an effect this would have on the news agencies who get their license revoked or their viewers.

      Obviously, this is a big Fist Amendment no-no, so the ruleset needs to be drawn up by a combination of media entities; basically a constitutional convention for the media.

      That would be really interesting, although it would take several conventions with positive results to get from now to a factual utopia without seriously changing most large cable companies and completely castrating Fox immediately.

      Two of the rules that must be included.

      1.) Intentionally reporting false information x amount of times in one week/month/year results in y punishment, ultimate punishment would be the revocation of your "news" license.

      Again, I don't really see how would this affect a company like Fox unless the convention is broadcasted to all their viewers. Personally I see the ultimate punishment as being cut off of cable packages, although again,we would need to rely on an impartial government that doesn't abuse this and violates the first amendment.

      2.) No advertising during a "news" segment.

      I agree. All news companies should use a business model that makes them receive revenue solely from their viewers, although there are great problems in doing something like subscriptions, mainly how subscriptions either encourage extreme conglomeration or the driving down of operation costs as close to nothing as possible. We would need something better than that, like per-article fees, although I have no idea what those fees would be and how would this be applied to TV news.

      4 votes
  3. Death
    Link
    I don't know what deeper solutions there are to fix 'the news' itself, but there's probably something to be said for coming up with some kind of legal framework to discourage the deliberate spread...

    I don't know what deeper solutions there are to fix 'the news' itself, but there's probably something to be said for coming up with some kind of legal framework to discourage the deliberate spread of misinformation. Or maybe more precisely: to institute some kind of liability if you can prove a physical or moral person spread a message which ended up misinforming the broader public, perhaps similar to how libel and slander laws work? In the broader sense I think platforms like Facebook or YouTube should be held to task more for being carriers of misinformation, even if they themselves did not deliberately promote such thing.

    You'd probably need an actual legal scholar to talk about the pros and cons, and further-reaching legal implications though.

    3 votes
  4. [3]
    diode
    Link
    There are no good media outlets. All media has an agenda and that's been the case since time immemorial. Even the most well intentioned ones will publish falsehoods or eventually abuse their...

    There are no good media outlets. All media has an agenda and that's been the case since time immemorial. Even the most well intentioned ones will publish falsehoods or eventually abuse their trust. The problem isn't disinformation, but simply a lack of skepticism and an unfounded trust we have for media. Ths solution is to promote skepticism. It could be argued that not everybody is cut out to be a proper skeptic but IMO that's really just a form of veiled misanthropy and isn't based in any empirical evidence.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      elcuello
      Link Parent
      So in a world with no good media outlets we should be skeptic towards exactly what? Each other and our selves? Where does this end? While I understand your frustration I don't see how this is...

      There are no good media outlets.
      Ths solution is to promote skepticism.

      So in a world with no good media outlets we should be skeptic towards exactly what? Each other and our selves? Where does this end? While I understand your frustration I don't see how this is reality and a solution.

      10 votes
      1. diode
        Link Parent
        Skepticism done properly doesn't need a target. So yes, be skeptical towards each other and ourselves. Why would you need it to end? It's not a bad thing to demand proof of things and to reason...

        Skepticism done properly doesn't need a target. So yes, be skeptical towards each other and ourselves. Why would you need it to end? It's not a bad thing to demand proof of things and to reason carefully before accepting information at face value. This is especially true of your own beliefs, as good skepticism helps you discard unfounded ones and discover more substantial ones.

        1 vote
  5. [10]
    stu2b50
    Link
    News is fundamentally biased. However, that is by design and, unlike others, I'll argue intended. There are sources of pure information; wire news, the APA, CSPAN, etc. However, most people can...

    News is fundamentally biased. However, that is by design and, unlike others, I'll argue intended.

    There are sources of pure information; wire news, the APA, CSPAN, etc.

    However, most people can only muster an hour of shit giving for the news. And that's what news outlets do; they take that information, condense it, and give it their spin, telling you how to feel about it. People WANT that. If you DON'T want that, you can find unadulterated sources. However, the vast majority of people WANT it.

    What to do about it, if you don't like that? To be honest, you'd need an entire cultural shift to caring a great deal more about the world. But I'm not sure it's even reasonable. Everyone has busy days where their personal world is more than enough to deal with.

    1 vote
    1. [9]
      ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      Not sure that's the argumentation line I'd go for. People want to be able to do as they please, most of the time. It's the reason there are laws against the activities that harm others. People...

      People WANT that. If you DON'T want that, you can find unadulterated sources. However, the vast majority of people WANT it.

      Not sure that's the argumentation line I'd go for.

      People want to be able to do as they please, most of the time. It's the reason there are laws against the activities that harm others.

      People want, for some stupid reason, to not vaccinate their kids, even when sources are clearly within reach that not vaccinating their kids also ends up harming other kids. It's the reason some countries have mandatory vaccination laws.

      People want to be able to do a lot of harmful, stupid shit that ends up with collateral damage. It's the government's duty to protect society in general from the effect of such acts.

      People also want the shit they want without the awareness necessary to understand that the thing is harmful to them in the long run. Can you find out if it's bad? Sure! How much energy do you have to do that for every single thing? Which is why there are regulations. A lot of insane ones and not enough productive ones, granted, but it's never been a short walk in the park to make sure everyone's healthy, sane, educated, and afforded the opportunity to make a meaningful choice.

      1 vote
      1. [8]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        Regulations on news is a very precarious position to have, and honestly may not do very much. Naturally there are the concerns that the regulator itself can have great deal of influence. By what...

        Regulations on news is a very precarious position to have, and honestly may not do very much. Naturally there are the concerns that the regulator itself can have great deal of influence. By what metric is a news source bad?

        But further, it's fundamentally a hard argument to say that a TV show or website supporting moderates, or right wing fundamentalist can't exist. But you can say that they can't call themselves news. News is a protected title that only goes to your C-Spans and reuters.

        Ok, but will that do anything? I'd argue that removing the news in Fox News will cause maybe 1% of its viewers to stop viewing it. In the end, people want experts to give their spin, because they're not experts and they don't have time.

        2 votes
        1. [7]
          ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          In other words, people are naturally lazy and want the work performed for them. Which... I agree! Hence my proposing that a governing body – not necessarily the scary Government, but someone with...

          In other words, people are naturally lazy and want the work performed for them.

          Which... I agree! Hence my proposing that a governing body – not necessarily the scary Government, but someone with authority over the thing – analyze the shitshow that is the US news outlets, and use the results to delineate a clearer approach to what can be called "news" and what is an opinion-, take-based outlet.

          You're right: settled viewers are very unlikely to stop watching Fox News because they enjoy the narrative. That's... not great for the political health of the country, but – free choice is free choice. So why not shift the definition towards something more reasonable and realistic? If things aren't going to change and the names fit better, what would be the harm?

          By what metric is a news source bad?

          I'd say the divisive, inciting rhetoric is squarely outside the boundries of news delivery. That's just one trait to point out, but it's a start.

          1. [6]
            stu2b50
            Link Parent
            I feel like lazy is overly down putting. Most people have like 6-8 hours of free time, watching C-Span recordings of Congress is not what they want to do, and it shouldn't be expected. Ok, but how...

            In other words, people are naturally lazy and want the work performed for them.

            I feel like lazy is overly down putting. Most people have like 6-8 hours of free time, watching C-Span recordings of Congress is not what they want to do, and it shouldn't be expected.

            Hence my proposing that a governing body – not necessarily the scary Government, but someone with authority over the thing – analyze the shitshow that is the US news outlets, and use the results to delineate a clearer approach to what can be called "news" and what is an opinion-, take-based outlet.

            Ok, but how does that work? Is it completely third party? Then Murdoch is free to make his own TheOfficialNewsRater, and wow all the Murdoch news sites are great! And how is anyone supposed to tell which one is real? If they could, they could also just tell which news sites they want to go to.

            If it's spawned from the government, then we get the great deal where one of the major things being reported on is the government, moderated by the government? As we've seen from the stupidity in the NWS and Trump, the executive branch can greatly affect government branches.

            I'd say the divisive, inciting rhetoric is squarely outside the boundries of news delivery.

            But that's not an objective metric. The PRC can easily claim HK outlets are being divisive and having inciting rhetoric. The rest of the world can claim that's the truth.

            1 vote
            1. [5]
              ThatFanficGuy
              Link Parent
              So would I if it were said genuinely. I was exaggerating to make the point clear. Of course not. Not everyone is this invested in the politics of their country. Perhaps they shouldn't be, either,...

              I feel like lazy is overly down putting.

              So would I if it were said genuinely. I was exaggerating to make the point clear.

              Most people have like 6-8 hours of free time, watching C-Span recordings of Congress is not what they want to do, and it shouldn't be expected.

              Of course not. Not everyone is this invested in the politics of their country. Perhaps they shouldn't be, either, what with their own lives going on as well.

              That doesn't mean it's a green light to pervert the events. Granted, I don't have a clean line in mind on what would be perverting it. What I have is the idea that interpreting the events after you'd briefly stated what the events were would be more appropriate than simply interpreting the events.

              The purpose of the news outlets is to deliver the news. Interpretation is not news: it's an opinion.

              Then Murdoch is free to make his own TheOfficialNewsRater, and wow all the Murdoch news sites are great!

              No, I said someone with authority. The FCC conducts review of the modern media, correct?

              If it's spawned from the government, then we get the great deal where one of the major things being reported on is the government, moderated by the government?

              I'd die to seeing the structure where the people, collectively get to decide what's okay and what isn't, while being provided clear data and no opinionated sidenotes. That ain't happening, but fuck, that would be fantastic.

              Meanwhile? Yes, the state kinda gets to say if something is out of line. Kinda its job, isn't it?

              But that's not an objective metric.

              If more than 25% of the viewers of a particular channel are also hard-line Republican, pro-authoritarian, gun-toting, and xenophobic, that's kinda saying something about the channel.

              If it's more than 50%... hoo boy.

              The PRC can easily claim HK outlets are being divisive and having inciting rhetoric.

              It's always a delight when dictatorships claim something to be an underhaded euphemism for "doesn't agree with us", isn't it? /s

              An authoritarian regime is a terrible line to draw for the freedom of speech.

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                stu2b50
                Link Parent
                I feel like that's just pedantry. News to modern consumers is interpretation of the news. If you force it so that news = CSPAN, editorial news = CNN, that doesn't actually change anything. It just...

                The purpose of the news outlets is to deliver the news. Interpretation is not news: it's an opinion.

                I feel like that's just pedantry. News to modern consumers is interpretation of the news. If you force it so that news = CSPAN, editorial news = CNN, that doesn't actually change anything. It just changes a label.

                Meanwhile? Yes, the state kinda gets to say if something is out of line. Kinda its job, isn't it?

                That doesn't address the fact that as we have multiple examples of with the current administration, the executive branch can easily coerce them into just lying. If Trump can get the NOAA, something that's literally should be 100% objective and scientific, to lie in a report, just imagine what someone could to do a agency that decides who is the truth.

                If more than 25% of the viewers of a particular channel are also hard-line Republican, pro-authoritarian, gun-toting, and xenophobic, that's kinda saying something about the channel.

                I mean, does it not seem like a problem to judge a channel by who goes on it? Sure, for Fox news or breitbart it's obviously correlated, but, for example, Yang has a bizarrely large following in the alt-right. None of which is his doing, it's just their stupid interpretation of him.

                It's always a delight when dictatorships claim something to be an underhaded euphemism for "doesn't agree with us", isn't it? /s

                Yeah, exactly, hence why "divisive and inciting rhetoric" is not an objective metric, and can easily be twisted by authoritarian regimes into oppressing the truth. That is the point. Mechanisms which allow for that probably bad.

                1 vote
                1. [3]
                  ThatFanficGuy
                  Link Parent
                  I don't think that's fair. Calling opinion-based pieces "news" is a misnomer, and having a vague notion of what's statistically-applicable doesn't change that. Having opinion pieces contaminate...

                  News to modern consumers is interpretation of the news.

                  I don't think that's fair. Calling opinion-based pieces "news" is a misnomer, and having a vague notion of what's statistically-applicable doesn't change that. Having opinion pieces contaminate the notion of what news is is not the consumer's fault.

                  That doesn't address the fact that as we have multiple examples of with the current administration

                  In other words, governmental structures can be abused by said government. That's most certainly true. To me, that says there's a requirement for better checks and balances, rather than assuming that no governmental entity can be trusted to fulfill its purpose successfully.

                  does it not seem like a problem to judge a channel by who goes on it?

                  Not at all. Nobody lures the channel's audience in.

                  And given your Yang example... I have no idea what's happening there and why, so I can't comment on that even through my smartypants attire.

                  Mechanisms which allow for [state-dictated censorship are] probably bad.

                  Is your point that the whole system becomes unreliable if it can be abused? What level of security are you looking for from a communications system that's supposed to represent a vast majority of people with diverse opinions?

                  1. [2]
                    stu2b50
                    Link Parent
                    But even if we assume that it's workable, it would mean that until there's major political reform, we should not have this regulation, no? It would actually make it worse than now if we have a...

                    In other words, governmental structures can be abused by said government. That's most certainly true. To me, that says there's a requirement for better checks and balances, rather than assuming that no governmental entity can be trusted to fulfill its purpose successfully.

                    But even if we assume that it's workable, it would mean that until there's major political reform, we should not have this regulation, no?

                    It would actually make it worse than now if we have a government agency that, say, rates the objectivity of outlets. With the current administration, we get Fox 8/10, NYT 5/10, CNN 3/10.

                    Oh god it's gotten worse!

                    Not at all. Nobody lures the channel's audience in.

                    I mean, I have nothing more to say other than I heavily disagree. Such correlation based metrics have been used numerous times to justify stereotyping and prejudice.

                    Is your point that the whole system becomes unreliable if it can be abused?

                    No, it was that there is no objective metric to use to evaluate outlets. Inciting action is not one, for instance, because it can be both good and bad to have divisive content. Sometimes it should be divisive!

                    1 vote
                    1. ThatFanficGuy
                      Link Parent
                      I'd withdrawn from the conversation yesterday because it felt like it was going nowhere. Today, I've been watching Last Week Tonight, and one of the things being discussed in the episode (the last...

                      I'd withdrawn from the conversation yesterday because it felt like it was going nowhere.

                      Today, I've been watching Last Week Tonight, and one of the things being discussed in the episode (the last episode of season 6, for those curious) is how Fox News had been spinning Trump's quid pro quo with Ukraine now that it's been revealed just how blatant that deal was. One of the things that struck a chord was how Stuart Varney was spinning the fact that the proceedings of the hearing were unpalatable to the public ear:

                      It was unutterably boring, wasn't it? Did you watch any of this stuff? I mean, with Richard Nixon, there was a break-in. With Bill Clinton? There was sex in the Oval Office. With Trump? It's a phone call.

                      I immediately knew what it reminded me of.

                      So here's what I'm gonna leave this conversation with for good:

                      I think you're spinning this. You've moved goalposts throughout the conversation for the benefit of no one: from the idea that news ought to be exciting and condensed because people don't have time, to media regulation, to corruptability of the state and its branches. This has been a discussion for the sake of discussing, and I'm guilty of perpetuating it too. It's done nothing, it moved nothing, and it's only there because someone wanted to say something.

                      You've argued that news should be regurgitated because people aren't interested – nor should they be. That's bullshit. The news are not a public forum: they're a relay of information that's of the interest to the public at large. When taken as something else, they cease to be news. But it's okay because all people really want is to be fed from a spoon with facts that needn't think about, let alone apply the sliver of logic to, right?

                      That's bullshit too. I'm a designer. I know people want to do more with less. I want to do more with less. But if I have to sacrifice the ability to verify whether what I'm doing is all I can do? Fuck that process. I don't want to be locked in a mental cage of gold simply because thinking is hard. That sort of anti-intellectual approach has been a bane of existence in the US since its appearance. People should be encouraged to think. People ought to be educated to all the extent their government can afford to, because an educated population is one that lifts themselves and their country up, that can see through the lies, that can call out bullshit when something's smelling funny.

                      And that argument of yours that no state is incorruptable? That reeks so heavily of Putinist manipulation that I'm starting to question your agenda. Implying that just because bad people can come to power so it's irrelevant whether the sources of their information are being even baseline-filtered from crap and trash so whatever they're consuming in the end must be good for them because how the fuck would they know otherwise?

                      I'm not content with how this conversation has gone. Lots of nonsense that I didn't vocally filter because I was too depressed to speak up. The PRC? Sure, let's bring up nations that have place in the discussion. News agencies' ratings? Sure, let's dumb down another portion of the argument for the sake of dumbing down the whole conversation. I'm so upset with myself that I didn't call you out on this earlier.

                      At best, you display inexperience and evasiveness. At worst, there are ulterior motives to your side of the discussion.

                      3 votes