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Getting all your news from Facebook is like eating only potato chips, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue says

McCue has some ideas for fixing fake news and anonymous harassment online.

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 - Day 1 Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Flipboard is redesigning itself around the concept of “smart magazines,” collections of stories around specific topics that you choose to follow — and CEO Mike McCue wants you to know that humans are involved in choosing what stories you see.

“We really believe that stories are more than just a bunch of ones and zeroes packaged together,” McCue said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “The technology industry can sometimes over-rotate on the technology aspect and say, ‘This is a great story because the most people are clicking on it.’”

“But there’s no algorithm for true or false, fact or fiction,” he added. “There’s no algorithm for insightful, or important, or meaningful.”

McCue said getting all your news from either friends or algorithms is “challenging and semi-dangerous” because today’s social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, favor content that people engage with, driving “extremist” content to the top. Hence, he argues, the “fake news” epidemic, which McCue believes had an effect on the 2016 election.

“Sometimes I think of news feeds as the ‘mystery meat’ of your information diet,” he said. “It’s not like you finish reading your Facebook feed, after half an hour, and feel like, 'That was a great use of time!’ It’s like if you ate potato chips all day long.”

Flipboard’s solution is to use a mixture of human curation and algorithms to filter stories, what the CEO calls “bionic editors.” McCue said it’s important for tech platforms to prioritize truth and civility if they want to be a source of trusted news — and that they should work together to broadly ban users who abuse the privilege of their openness.

“You shouldn’t [just] get banned from Twitter, you should get banned from all sorts of things,” he said. “If you go off the rails and threaten somebody, that should be something that you can’t just delete an account and do some other social service, or come back again. There should be a longer-lasting impact to you.”

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