#79, attend to the structural problems inherent in the platform ecosystem

April 5, 2017

In “All I Know Is What’s on the Internet: Information literacy is not the antidote to fake news, because the institutions for teaching it can’t be trusted either,” Rolin Moe writes:

If we can blame fake-news makers for the Trump presidency and other social ills, then we can continue to deny this wider complicity in developing a society that promises knowledge as power, but primarily treats information as an economic resource. Fake news is just squatting in one part of one building in an entire landscape of neglect and corruption; evicting them will make no difference to the blight. Fake news is a convenient framing that sets the stage for feel-good, ultimately escapist solutions. One such solution is “information literacy,” which is being proposed by many educators as the antidote to fake news.

cut to

Google and Facebook Can’t Just Make Fake News Disappear.” Dana boyd writes:

The puzzles made visible through “fake news” are hard. They are socially and culturally hard. They force us to contend with how people construct knowledge and ideas, communicate with others and construct a society. They are also deeply messy, revealing divisions and fractures in beliefs and attitudes. And that means that they are not technically easy to build or implement. If we want technical solutions to complex socio-technical issues, we can’t simply throw it over the wall and tell companies to fix the broken parts of society that they made visible and helped magnify. We need to work together and build coalitions of groups who do not share the same political and social ideals to address the issues that we can all agree are broken.

then attend to The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism recent report, “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism,” by Emily Bell and Taylor Owen, who explain:

The recent push to develop tools for flagging misinformation and digital literacy campaigns are important initiatives and signal that platform companies are beginning to engage with problems they have long avoided. These efforts will make a tangible difference to the quality of information shared on digital platforms and will help citizens responsibly engage with the false information that will always get through. But these types of initiatives are limited by their detachment from the structural problems inherent in the platform ecosystem. Namely, the near dominance of Silicon Valley ideology, the pernicious effect of adtech economics, and the opacity of automation.
and one key finding:
The “fake news” revelations of the 2016 election have forced social platforms to take greater responsibility for publishing decisions. However, this is a distraction from the larger issue that the structure and the economics of social platforms incentivize the spread of low-quality content over high-quality material. Journalism with high civic value—journalism that investigates power, or reaches underserved and local communities—is discriminated against by a system that favors scale and shareability.
See More (readings found with help from Eileen Clancy):
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One Response to “#79, attend to the structural problems inherent in the platform ecosystem”


  1. […] This matters to me because in seeking or sharing clarity in the form of somewhat facetious, somewhat sincere “hardtruths,” I find I often, still, get mired in and produce noise against all my best efforts (i.e. writing short posts, relying on images, building a simple pretty interface, sharing via social networks in even more redacted forms). I find that even when I gain discrete moments of clarity across this project, this is quickly drowned out by the noise of its own escalating plentitude and the logics of its internet home. […]


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