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The clickbait future of news and our crisis of consensus

The clickbait future of news and our crisis of consensus

It’s often hard to distinguish between what has come to be known as “clickbait”—which according to Dictionary.com is “a sensationalized headline or piece of text on the internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page”—and simply a clever headline.

What irks me about true clickbait headlines is that the story often contradicts or fails to mention the claim made in the headline. Of course, if the entire story is merely fabricated or exaggerated in ways that obscure what is actually going on, that is a problem, too.

News organizations are no strangers to sensationalized headlines. In fact, the newspaper business invented an entire category for what is called clickbait, namely, tabloids. The often repeated adage that “if it bleeds, it leads” is reaffirmed on a daily basis.

(Tabloids are, of course, named after the tabloid format that many sensationalizing newspapers adopt. The most recognizable newspaper format is called broadsheet which is used by major daily papers around the world. For a very short explanation of newspaper sizes, you can click here.)

Now, adult readers should generally be left to sort things out for themselves. They can learn to trust and mistrust news sources from experience and weigh the headlines and information provided accordingly. I know many people are very concerned about the kind of fantasies offered on the Internet that lead otherwise sane people to disconnect from any shared reality and even resort to violence. That is certainly a problem, and it requires an entire book to explain and respond to. I don’t plan to deal with it here.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Mephistopheles Media


Ary Scheffer Faust in his Study c1840
The essence of the story of Faust is simple: He is a man who sells his -future- soul to the devil in return for short term gain, for riches “now”. But years later, the devil comes to collect his prize.

Here’s a modern allegory.

In 2015 -or thereabouts- many of the mainstream media (MSM) outlets were facing dire times. Social media were taking over much of their readers’ attention, their ad revenue plummeted, and they didn’t have big stories to tell that would revert that trend. Things did not look good for the survival of CNN, New York Times or MSNBC. The Washington Post suffered the same problems, but they were owned by the world’s richest man.

And then the salvation presented itself on their doorstep in the form of Donald Trump. It’s not something they planned for, it just happened; it even took them a while to figure it out, but once they did, they went for it headfirst and all-in. How could they not? They were dying. Their finance departments told them anything negative about Trump was selling like hotcakes. And Trump willingly added to the fire.

The MSM made a Faustian pact with the devil (through his messenger Mephistopheles) for survival. And that devil was not Donald Trump, they never signed a deal with him, the devil disguised himself in the shape of clickbait, which very much has the devil’s signature, since it required them to do their “reporting” based on promoting hatred, conflict, division, anger, negativity, bitterness, resentment. All of which sells. Like nothing else. You don’t get people’s attention with happy stories, you get it by making them angry.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Father Of The World Wide Web Warns “Perverse Incentives” Have Made The Internet “Dysfunctional”

Father Of The World Wide Web Warns “Perverse Incentives” Have Made The Internet “Dysfunctional”

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee – known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, says that the internet has become a cesspool of “clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation,” which needs to be “changed for the better,” reports CNBCSir Tim Berners-Lee, Image via Wikimedia Commons

In a Monday letter marking 30 years since he created a blueprint for the WWW in March 1989, the 63-year-old Oxford/MIT professor outlined three “sources of dysfunction” affecting the internet today; malicious behavior such as state-sponsored hacking and online harassment, “perverse” incentives driving misinformation, and unintended negative consequences such as polarizing, unhealthy conversations. 

“Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age,” said Berners-Lee. “They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open.

Berners-Lee singled out Google and Facebook for rewarding clickbait and misinformation. He has previously knocked the tech giants for exploiting people’s personal data. 

“Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety,” reads the Monday letter. 

Last October, Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web foundation released a new blueprint in order to help put the web back on its original course. Known as the “Contract for the Web,” the plan calls for governments to ensure that everyone can connect to the internet – which is kept “available, all of the time,” and respects people’s “fundamental right to privacy.” It also calls on businesses to make the internet affordable to everyone as well as respect data privacy rights. 

One pillar of the contract is treating the web as a basic right for everyone, an idea that is far from reality today. The World Bank estimates roughly half of the world’s population still does not have access to the internet…

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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