Berkeley, Cornell partner with Facebook to identify 'fake news'

Facebook is partnering with the University of California-Berkeley, Cornell University, and the University of Maryland to identify fake news.

The tech giant is investing $7.5 million into projects at the three schools, according to a UC Berkeley news release. The two Berkeley professors who will work with Facebook are Hany Farid and Alexe Efros, who are both part of UC-Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. 

Farid has been a longtime critic of social media companies and the danger that doctored videos and images pose online. The professor has commented on this subject for CNN and admitted to the school that he is “skeptical” of the new partnership with Facebook. 

“I have been skeptical,” he told Berkeley News. “But I have agreed to work with [Facebook] for a year on the technology. For over a decade now, I’ve been pushing them and other big tech companies to take more responsibility for social media, for misinformation and fake news. I’d like to see a healthier online experience, and I am hoping that this is a first step in that direction.” 

[RELATED: Facebook awards USC students for ‘bias-busting’ app]

Farid added that his work will involve creating technology to detect “fake news, fake images, and fake videos.”

Campus Reform reached out to Farid with questions about how such a technology could detect fake news without political bias, but received no response in time for publication. 

Farid wasn’t the only member of the Berkeley community who was skeptical. The Berkeley College Republicans told Campus Reform that while well-intentioned, this effort could lead to censorship of conservative content. 

“The underlying premise of Facebook's repeated crusades to eliminate misinformation and fake content is the belief that Americans are exceedingly gullible and need benevolent overlords to protect them from consuming the wrong information,” Berkeley College Republicans External VP Rudra Reddy told Campus Reform. 

“As we have seen in the past, misinformation is often used as a cover by social media giants for censoring right-leaning websites and content,” Reddy added. “We wish the Berkeley faculty members involved in this process well but would urge them not to recommend the adoption of any community standard that they would find unacc

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Ivy League pres: Campus free speech 'doing just fine' despite contrary evidence

The president of one Ivy League university took aim at President Donald Trump and his recent campus free speech executive order. 

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, criticized in an op-ed for The Atlantic Trump's executive order, which requires colleges to do what "they’re already required by law to do: extend free-speech protections to men and women on campus." 

The headline for the op-ed, which Bollinger authored, reads, "Free speech on campus is doing just fine, thank you." 

"The executive order was a transparent exercise in politics. Its intent was to validate the collective antipathy that many Trump boosters feel toward institutions of higher learning," Bollinger wrote, adding that "the president’s claim that the campus free-speech order was needed to defend 'American values that have been under siege' ignored two essential facts." 

The Columbia University president went on to claim that universities today are "more hospitable venues for open debate than the nation as a whole." Bollinger then noted the history of debate over what is "acceptable speech," and that "exchanges over the boundaries of campus speech should, therefore, be welcomed rather than reviled when they take place."

[RELATED: NY college pres.: ‘A campus is not the place for free speech’]

Bollinger noted a  2016 Knight Foundation survey that found that 78 percent of college students reported they favor an open learning environment that includes offensive views, compared with 66 percent of U.S. adults saying the same. However, a more recent survey conducted in 2018 found a much less favorable number for Bollinger's argument with 70 percent of college students saying they favor an open learning environment. 

However, as Campus Reform previously reported, the majority of college students in a recent College Pulse survey said that conservatives on college campuses experience at least "some" discrimination for their political views. 

Bollinger cites what he calls the "surest evidence of censorship or the suppression of ideas on college campuses," the disinvitation of speakers on campuses. Bollinger noted that of the "thousands" of speakers who come to more than 4,500 campuses across the U.S. each year, only 11 were disinvited in 2018. 

"This is a minuscule fraction of the universe of speakers who express their views annually on American campuses," Bollinger w

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UVA College Repubs sound off on proposal to scrap Jefferson's birthday as holiday

The College Republicans at the University of Virginia criticized a proposal made by the Charlottesville, Va. mayor to stop recognizing Thomas Jefferson’s birthday as an official holiday for the city.

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker made the suggestion earlier in June at a city council meeting, according to The Daily Progress. Walker advocated for instead observing Liberation and Freedom Day -- recognizing the emancipation of slaves in the city and Albemarle County -- as an official city holiday. 

While the mayor did not expand on her proposal, Councilor Wes Bellamy said he was “proud” of Walker, noting that Jefferson was a slaveowner and claiming he raped his slave Sally Hemings, though DNA tests and several Jefferson scholars have refuted that Hemings gave birth to any children by Jefferson.

“I think it’s a conversation that we definitely as a city need to have,” Bellamy, who has previously received scrutiny for tweets in which he made remarks such as “White women=Devil” and “I DONT [sic] LIKE WHIT [sic] PEOPLE SO I HATE WHITE SNOW!!!!!," said. 

[RELATED: UVA students triggered by hiring of former Trump official]

But UVA’s College Republicans critiqued the proposal in a statement posted to Twitter.

“While we recognize that Thomas Jefferson’s legacy is a complicated one, complete with his disregard of a number of the very values that he proclaimed, we do not believe that this effort to reduce his status in history is the proper response,” the group said.

UVA College Republicans noted the former president’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence, the founding of the University of Virginia, and creation of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

“We applaud the mayor’s effort to bring greater recognition to Liberation and Freedom Day, but maintain that this can be accomplished without ceasing to honor Thomas Jefferson’s birthday,” the College Republicans continued. “As such, we urge the Council to reject her effort and strongly encourage the observance of both holidays in the future.”

[RELATED: UVA College Repubs: Biden tried to 'capitalize on a tragedy' with Charlottesville ad]

April 13 marks the founding father’s birthday and Charlottesville labels the nearest working day a paid holiday.

City Attorney John Blair plans to discuss the proposa

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EXCLUSIVE: Boston University prof suggests TAXING fake news

A Boston University professor is suggesting tackling the problem of fake news by taxing it.

BU business professor Marshall Van Alstyne advocated the approach in a recent BU news release, expanding on the concept in an interview with Campus Reform.  Van Alstyne says it is important to note that he does not want the censoring of free speech, but rather an accountability system for harmful fake news.

“You could sample messages, find out some proportion of false and damning information, and then tax in proportion to the damage that’s being done,” Van Alstyne told BU. “What you’re doing is you’re taxing the damage. You’re not taxing the speech.”

[RELATED: Harvard pushes list calling conservative websites ‘fake news’]

“The simplest definition [of fake news] is information that causes harm at scale,” he said, suggesting that it may have cropped up in the 2016 presidential election and Brexit.

“[The point is] to recognize disinformation as a form of pollution in your news feed just like carbon monoxide in your air supply or dioxin in your water stream,” the professor explained to Campus Reform. “Social media platforms effectively pick up and amplify anything that generates engagement, regardless of whether this creates happiness or harm.”

Van Alstyne emphasized that he does not want to regulate free speech, but instead the consequences of it.

“The tradeoffs are difficult to balance on both sides,” he told Campus Reform. “The extremes are easy: On one hand, we don't allow outright lies about products or people’s character, and on the other hand, we must promote free speech even of unpopular opinions -- abolishing slavery and promoting women's suffrage were once unpopular. The middle ground is hard and mechanisms that police speech must be applied very delicately and with great caution.”

[RELATED: UMich offers course on fake news coverage of Trump]

Though the term “fake news” has become more popular with recent political climates, Van Alstyne noted that it is not a new problem, referencing World War II as a time where fake news was used to spread wrong information to opponents’ enemies. 

He said that the modern iteration of fake news has two new features.

“First, it's possible for one partisan to ‘whisper’ salacious claims to lar

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