Apple and Facebook want to combat fake news that is “polluting the web,” but I have to ask, how much truth do people really want?
Facebook, a massive government database powered by peer pressure and vanity, is run by a man who says:
“I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.” (Link, link, link).
Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, believes his sexual orientation to be a God given gift.
“So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay,” he then continued, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.“ (link, link, link)
File under rich religious people who want to end fake news.
We are biologically wired to lean unrealistically in the direction of hope. Thus, Las Vegas. The truth is, people will mostly believe what they want and real odds and real facts too often don’t much matter.
If you do really want to get rid of fake news, then really do it. If they did, all references to religion on Facebook and Apple products may need to be marked with an “ancient fake news” warning.
Apple CEO Tim Cook wants the tech industry to take action against “fake news” stories that are polluting the web.
“There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic,” Cook said in a rare interview.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cook also said “all of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news.”
Other leading tech company CEOs, like Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken about the problem in recent months. But Cook’s comments were much more frank.
According to the Telegraph, he said made-up stories and hoaxes are “killing people’s minds.”
And he called the “fake news” plague “a big problem in a lot of the world.”
That’s probably true.
The term “fake news” was originally coined to describe online stories that are designed to deceive readers. Often times these stories are shared on Facebook and other social networking sites to generate profits for the creators. Other times the stories are essentially propaganda made up for political purposes.
These kinds of stories received widespread attention before and after the American election. Fictional stories with titles like “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for president” won millions of clicks.
It can be very difficult for web surfers to tell the difference between legitimate news sources and fakes.
That’s where companies like Apple come in.
Oh, do they now?
In the Telegraph interview – part of a multi-day European trip – Cook said “too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”
He urged both technological and intellectual solutions.
“We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will,” Cook told the newspaper.
What he described is music to the ears of media literacy advocates.
“It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid,” Cook said.
There are scattered efforts in some schools to teach media literacy, with a focus on digital skills, but it is by no means universal.
When asked if Apple would commit to funding a PSA campaign, an Apple spokesman said the company had no further comment on Cook’s interview.
The Apple CEO also suggested that tech companies can help weed out fake stories, though he added, “We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press.”
What about freedom of religion?
Apple’s own Apple News app has been credited with being a relatively reliable place to find information.
The company “reviews publishers who join Apple News,” BuzzFeed noted last December.
And the app has a “report-a-concern function where users can flag fake news or hate speech.”
Facebook recently started working with fact-checkers to test “warning labels” that show up when users share made-up stories.
Cook, in the newspaper interview, expressed optimism that the “fake news” plague is a “short-term thing – I don’t believe that people want that at the end of the day.”
It may not be so short term. If the Flavian hypothesis is correct, as historical evidence suggests, then the number of current believers in ancient fake news is staggering.
Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.
“Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” he explains.
“When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.”
Was Jesus based on a real person from history? “The short answer is no,” Atwill insists, “in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”
Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament.
“I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,” he recounts. “Although it’s been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus.
This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.”
From just an evidenced based perspective, religious views come also from old stories that have morphed over time (read Gilgamesh) and from misunderstandings of natural phenomena such as self organizing systems.
For example, take the Holy Ghost. If investigators examined it from the perspective of vetting a news story, a solid case can be made that the idea came from magical thinking about the “life breath.” Breath was another word for sprit.
How about angels? Angelo means wanderer or messenger in Ancient Greek. The evidence from history suggests that archangels were what we now know are planets, wanderers in the arch of the sky compared to the fixed rotating sphere of the stars. At times they were called gods. Mercury, the fastest moving planet, for example, was depicted as a god with wings.
Unfortunately, it is very human to make emotional decisions where evidence is ignored, misinterpreted and sometimes faked to support preexisting beliefs. People cling violently to their views. Wars have been fought and people have been killed by governments for trying to expose fake news.
In other words, good luck combatting fake news, Tim and Mark. You can’t have it both ways.