Tech influencer Ram Fish sees a way to make social media do more social good.
With a pandemic raging and a contentious election looming, false and hateful information on social media threatens to destabilize American society. Ram Fish ’95, MS ’95, thinks he has a solution. The tech entrepreneur presented it in an essay in the June issue of FastCompany, a magazine popular among young business professionals.
Fish proposes a labeling system that uses independent fact-checkers to rank the truthfulness of social media posts while enhancing the reputation of platforms that try harder to present good information.
“In the same way we rely on labels to instill confidence in our food, medicine, and other consumer goods, we need a similar labeling system to instill trust in the news, video, people, and organizations we encounter in social networks,” he writes.
Fish, of Menlo Park, CA, is the founder and CEO of the telehealth company 19Labs. He previously led the iPod group at Apple and Samsung’s effort to build the Simband clinical health wearable.
In his essay, he argues censoring social media posts would go too far and a hands-off policy succumbs to lies and hate speech. To ignore the problem is also not an option “in a world where much of our political and social discourse, for better or worse, takes place on social media.”
He sees the possibility of a middle way, where users can see an assessment of the veracity of a post and even request a fact check if one has not yet been reviewed. False or misleading messages would earn a label that puts the author at a competitive disadvantage.
“With this system in place, users would be less likely to believe, and share, an item that’s been labeled false,” he argues. “It might also reduce the incentive for bloggers, media sites, or politician pages to publish misinformation.”
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