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To fight fake news, Facebook should highlight it, investor Michael Dearing says

Shining a light on hoaxers is more effective than trying to outsmart them, Dearing said on the latest Recode Decode.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits at a table and ties on a laptop. Facebook

Opponents of “fake news” — meaning fictitious stories that are spread online, not factual news Donald Trump doesn’t like — have debated for months how big social media platforms should address it. Apple CEO Tim Cook wants a “massive campaign” against it, Facebook is enlisting fact-checkers to fight it and Google is banning bad publishers from its ad network.

But investor Michael Dearing has a simpler solution: Highlight all that “fake news” in bright yellow. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Dearing said he personally “lean[s] towards the libertarian end of the spectrum” and argued that the market, not Facebook, should police hoaxes.

“These markets are messy,” Dearing said. “They’re full of crazy people who like to do their own thing and they don’t want to hear about rules from a particular company that they patronize.”

From the perspective of companies like Facebook, Dearing says writing new rules to fight fake news could require three tools: The pen, the price tag or the flashlight.

“They can write a rule, command and control using the pen to write legislation about what’s okay and what’s not on their site,” he added. “They can set a price tag for ‘If you want to exhibit these types of behaviors, here’s the price you have to pay’ in dollars; or you can shine a flashlight on it and say, ‘Hey, we’re not here to judge, but we want you to know where these people are coming from, what country of origin did this news item originate in, what are the credentials of the people who supplied it?’”

“That flashlight is the most powerful tool these companies have,” he added.

When asked if Silicon Valley actually cares about the truth, Dearing said individual people in the tech industry care as much as everyone else. But companies like Facebook that are dependent on ad revenue and user growth, he said, are “addicted” to that model and can’t pull out of their engagement-minded tricks so easily.

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