For Mark Zuckerberg to say that less than 1% of news on Facebook is a hoax is a little like saying that less than 1% of your brain is malignant cancer. It’s not the 1% but the malignancy. It sounds like things are 99% okay, but it’s actually a very bad diagnosis.
This is a helpful analogy. I was just reading an old Malcolm Gladwell essay where he talks about the issue of thinking about problems as bell curve distributions when they’re actually power law distributions.
Here’s an excerpt where he talks about a few bad cops in LAPD who do outsized damage to the whole department:
The report gives the strong impression that if you fired those forty-four cops the L.A.P.D. would suddenly become a pretty well-functioning police department. But the report also suggests that the problem is tougher than it seems, because those forty-four bad cops were so bad that the institutional mechanisms in place to get rid of bad apples clearly weren’t working. If you made the mistake of assuming that the department’s troubles fell into a normal distribution, you’d propose solutions that would raise the performance of the middle — like better training or better hiring — when the middle didn’t need help. For those hard-core few who did need help, meanwhile, the medicine that helped the middle wouldn’t be nearly strong enough.
On Facebook, the medicine against the hard-core few isn’t nearly strong enough.