Musk should go ahead and build pravda

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Elon Musksideaof creating a credibility rating site for journalists and media outlets seems wacky on the face of it. For one, the proposed name, Pravda, is cringe-making for a Soviet-born journalist like me. But not all Musks ideas are far-fetched. It can actually be a useful service.
Musk hates reading about his company (Tesla, not SpaceX) in the media. The ruthless discussion of production snafus and Musks iffy promises and forecasts, the focused coverage of deadly accidents, the less-than-perfect reviews of Teslas great hope, the Model 3 none of this is nice, if youre Musk. (I recommend following Bloomberg Opinion automotive journalistEdward Niedermeyeron Twitter, andenergy industrycolumnistLiam Denning,to keep up with the best and latest in Tesla-skepticism).

Musks tweets from Wednesdayindicatethat he believes journalists sensationalize Teslas problems because theyre after clicks and under pressure from big advertisers, who include Tesla competitors. I wont bother trying to prove that this is wrongheaded; neither is a problem here at Bloomberg. But its true that audience size isnt great at reflecting the quality of journalistic work. So Musk wants the audience to rate the core truth of every article, contributing to the writers and news outlets credibility rating.
Muskproposessomehow to make his new servicebotproof and capable of unmasking people who run bot armies, presumably in the same way the Atlantic CouncilsDigital Forensic ResearchLabhas worked to reveal the activity of Russian bots and trolls. Facebook recently partnered with the labto help stop election interference.

Of course, services for which user reviews are important havent quite conqueredthe fakes. Yelp, Amazon, and others may use special algorithms to spot them, but its an arms race: Artificial intelligence can nowcreatefake reviews that are extremely hard to tell from real ones. Its 100 percent certain that bots and paid trolls will romp on Musks new Pravda. With that name, itll be a badge of honor for Russian ones to subvert it, andgiven Musksmotivation and his love for publications that fawn on him, I doubt hell do much to restrain Tesla fanboys. But if other review-based services generally serve their purpose, why not this one[/img]
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If there is something creepy about the idea, it may be the sense that Musks creation would be another brick in the increasingly imposing edifice of a rating-based society, a truly all-embracing social credit systemlike the one being implementedin China. In such a system, society rates all our interactions the way anUberdriver and their ride rate each other. If youre an unnecessarily aggressive client in stores or, say, a bully on social networks,your rating goes down and businesses mayrefuse to deal with you. By thislogic, journalists social credit should also be tracked.
Isnt that a sort of mob rule? In pure form, its a totalitarian nightmare, but itll never be quite pure. Individuals in our societies still like to form their own views. Think of Rotten Tomatoes, the movie and TV show rating site, which aggregates the opinions of both ordinary viewers and professional critics. The two scores often diverge widely, and both contribute to a decision whether or not to see a movie. Its the same with restaurants: Both previous customers experience and professional reviews and ratings are valuable inputs.

Journalists today dont have a meaningful customer rating system. Even if they write on websites where their work can be commented upon or approved, the ratings arent portable or universally recognized. Musks name on the Pravda project could help it gain that kind of recognition.
The professional community, of course, would be free to ignore the ratings or to push back against them by hiring journalists who do important but unpopularwork, by handing out professional prizes to mavericks and contrarians, by promoting journalism that doesnt meet with public approval in unhealthy or repressive societies. In fact, it would be ideal if, like Rotten Tomatoes, Musks Pravda also allowed professional journalists torate each others work. Sometimes a discrepancy between the ratings might prompt readers to look at a story they otherwise wouldnt have considered.

The more inputs there are to inform our choices, the more likely we are to satisfy ourselves by making the right ones, even if these inputs can be abused or botched by badly-built tech. Its always up to humans to adjust for bias or fix systems that dont do a good job. Musks motivations might be less than noble, but hes stumbled on a good idea.
Read the original text at Bloomberg.

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