Academics who researched misinformation on Facebook…are banned by Facebook

Facebook has banned the personal accounts of academics who researched ad transparency and the spread of misinformation on the social network. Facebook says the group violated its term of service by scraping user data without permission. But the academics say they are being silenced for exposing problems on Facebook’s platform.

The researchers were part of NYU Ad Observatory, a project created to examine the origin and spread of political ads on Facebook. As the group explained in a blog post in May, their aim is to uncover who pays for political ads and how they are being targeted. Such work has important implications for understanding the spread of disinformation on Facebook, as the company does not fact-check political ads.

Fact-checking doesn’t have to be some all-inclusive guidebook through the meanders of Facebook. One or a few essential points…clear even to collegiate AI is sufficient to demonstrate the intent to maintain honesty. Advances can and would be made by the growing number of geeks in this land who are concerned with misinformation. Associating profiteering from lies with technology defeats many of the premises of an “open internet” that most of us began with.

American students are the problem with America’s colleges

Calvin & Hobbes on learning

President Obama, among others, likes to say that the US has the “world’s best universities.” That claim, though, refers the tip-top of prestigious universities: The US has 11 of the top 15, according to one international ranking.

So how good are US colleges overall, really? Kevin Carey, the director of the New America Foundation’s education policy program, recently argued in the New York Times that they aren’t that great, given that American adults — even college graduates — don’t perform well on an international test of adult skills. And Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday night that he generally agrees.

But this isn’t entirely fair to America’s colleges. The problem, really, is America’s college students.

…there’s a simple explanation for this, which makes it hard to tell how good American colleges actually are: American students are starting college farther behind than students in better-educated countries.

American students get about average scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment, the international test used to measure the skills of 15-year-olds globally. And while policymakers are concerned that the US is falling behind in college attainment rates, an above-average portion of Americans still end up earning a college degree.

So America has average students heading to college in above-average numbers. The result, in studies, is that the mediocrity is magnified.

Meanwhile, Korean and Finnish students end high school ahead of American students, as measured by the OECD’s tests, and also graduate from college in high numbers. So it’s no surprise that their college graduates rank higher than ours do. Asking American colleges to make up the difference isn’t entirely fair

This is a well-understood, if controversial, concept in [American] K-12 education. Teachers are increasingly judged based not just on students’ standardized test scores, but on how students are performing relative to expectations. So a teacher with a classroom full of fifth-graders who do math at a third-grade level might be rewarded, not punished, if those students had started the year at a first-grade level. They haven’t caught up yet, but teaching two full years of math in one academic year is a pretty amazing achievement.

But an international value-added comparison for higher education is a long way off. Some American colleges already measure learning gains, but the results are neither public nor national…

I noticed this was already happening – in 1964. I wondered why teachers and professors, the folks who taught teachers and professors were allowing it to happen.

It was fashionable. Students needed to find their own way. It was part of their freedom, individualism. Uh-huh.