If a Hillary-endorsed media platform is tech’s best solution to ‘fake news’ then we’re screwed

Social media sites have had a pretty interesting year when it comes to approaching filter bubbles and echo chambers and the real world effects that come when they effect something like a national election. Verrit is a fledgling media startup that’s aiming to provide a platform for Hillary supporters to look at infographics with quotes on them about stuff they agree with.

Verrit got a big boost yesterday when Hillary herself tweeted out an endorsement of the platform to her nearly 18 million Twitter followers.

For Clinton supporters the site aims “to become their trusted source of political information and analysis; to provide them (and anyone like-minded) sanctuary in a chaotic media environment; to center their shared principles; and to do so with an unwavering commitment to truth and facts,” according to a blog post. The site frequently references “the 65.8 million,” i.e. the number of votes Clinton received in the 2016 election.

Shortly after the Hillary endorsement, the site suffered a cyber attack substantial enough to make it inaccessible for much of Sunday night. Today, it has returned with some added protection thanks to Cloudflare.

CEO Peter Daou isn’t just a wayward founder who lucked into a Hillary endorsement of his product. He served as Clinton’s “Internet Director” in her 2008 presidential campaign and was a digital media strategist for her in years prior. After that he led ShareBlue, a left-leaning media site seemingly primed for those who find Salon to be a tad too centrist.

He seems to be excited about the attention from Verrit.

Philosophically, the site is a bit on the smug side, arguing that progressive-minded Hillary supporters need a home on the web away from the hustle and bustle of trolls and trump-ets to get their information. For those who were worried that other social media sites weren’t already echo chambers, Verrit basically codifies that into its mission. It wants to be a “sanctuary” for Hillary supporters.

Creating a media organization that isn’t absorbed in the 24-hour news cycle and can take a step back to approach topics on a deeper level is certainly not a bad idea, but building one that is supposed to make up for the biases of the mainstream media against liberals in a purely reactionary tone with the explicit backing of former staff of Hillary Clinton doesn’t exactly seem to be a recipe to bringing about solutions to political turmoil.

Then again, this is 2017 where products that espouse “free speech” as a central tenet are almost guaranteed to be hubs of hate speech. Just a couple weeks ago, social network Gab was booted from the Google Play store for failing to show “sufficient level of moderation.”

Even so, Verrit has its own issues with user-generated opinions. The site’s commenting policy is a bit unsavory, suggesting that instead of just not allowing you to post a comment if you’re in violation of its policy, Verrit will actually change the text itself before posting. “We reserve the right to alter or remove terminology that violates our policy before publishing a comment.”

The site’s big deal is that each post is part of a larger system system for verifying news snippets, but it doesn’t really appear to solve anything other than that it comes from sources trusted by Verrit. Each Verrit infographic has a seven-digit code on the bottom which sources to the website as a way of linking the image to its sourcing.

It’s not exactly revolutionary and furthermore none of the sources are actually linked so if you really care you’ll have to scour the web to find where the claim is from, especially when it just tells you the name of the publication. Seeing “Source: CNN” isn’t necessarily going to inspire any faith from Trump supporters used to the President’s habit of spouting “fake news!” at stuff he doesn’t agree with. Then again, this site isn’t meant for those people, just the 65.8 million.

Even though the interface functions pretty well, it’s not really clear whether Verrit’s format actually does a good job at conveying info. Some complex topics are pretty difficult to express succinctly and Verrit hasn’t exactly shown its deftness in doing so.

Verrit has every hallmark of a “here today, gone tomorrow” media startup but that won’t stop similar ideas from going forth with similar mission statements while similarly failing to solve the political divide.

“Verrit can only grow with the help of those whose values it reflects and serves,” a blog post reads. “…Together we can reject revisionism and tell our own story with integrity and honesty.”

Hmm.

Featured Image: Kevin Lamarque/AP
TechCrunch

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