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Platforms must take responsibility for fake news, Tom Friedman says

And if they don’t? “That is bullshit” and they should be shamed, the New York Times columnist adds on Recode Decode.

A man with salt-and-pepper hair and a bushy mustache addresses an audience from onstage, on a warm red background.
Thomas Friedman
John Lamparski / Getty Images

After some serious foot-dragging by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is ramping up tools to crack down on fake news; meanwhile, Google has said it will limit fraudsters’ ability to buy AdSense ads, but is still struggling with how to address lies spread by its search results.

New York Times columnist and “Thank You for Being Late” author Tom Friedman has some choice words for those companies.

“Let me get this right, you ‘platforms,’” Friedman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “So you want all the New York Times readers, you want all the New York Times advertising, but you don’t want to have the New York Times editors? That is bullshit.”

Friedman said the Times takes responsibility for the people who use its website by paying a human to moderate comments left on stories they post. One part of that person’s job, he noted, is to differentiate between opinions and malicious lies, and to prevent the latter from “going global.”

“We are letting algorithms do things that human beings should be doing,” he said. “And by the way, there’s work there for human beings, and it is necessary. ... When you try to entirely replace humans, I think you get aberrant behaviors.”

“The internet is an open sewer of unfiltered information, and if you don’t have citizens — kids and neighbors — who have the built-in filters to understand what’s fake, which a lot of them don’t, that’s going to be a huge career in the future,” he added.

In the meantime, how can companies like Google and Facebook be made to think like the Times about their responsibilities?

“We just have to shame them,” Friedman said on the new podcast.

You can listen to Recode Decode in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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