Comment Editor Kat Smith discusses the pressure to obtain the 'perfect' body image, and how we should focus on more important personal qualitiesWritten by Kat Smith on 21st March 2018
Facebook Fake News
Alex Goodwin discusses the recent epidemic of 'fake news' on Facebook and how this aided in the results of the US elections
When questioned, Mark Zuckerberg stated that the ‘fake news’ circulating Facebook was not his problem. He made it clear that Facebook isn’t a source for factual news and ‘surely had no impact’ on the Presidential elections.
However, a Facebook executive has disagreed and said that the social media forum has a duty to somehow limit the amount of ‘fake’ facts that have been taking social networks by storm. It has been recorded that from August (as the US elections received accumulated attention), the top 20 fake news stories on Facebook received more shares, likes and comments that top 20 real news stories.
“Despite the new President-elect disagreeing, global warming is not a hoax created by the Chinese, it is a real environmental consequence supported by a staggering amount of scientific research
Of course, by ‘real’ and ‘fake’ I am referring to issues that have a factual basis. For example, despite the new President-elect disagreeing, global warming is not a hoax created by the Chinese, it is a real environmental consequence supported by a staggering amount of scientific research. Global warming is the ‘real’ news, whereas a conspiracy concerning the Chinese is ‘fake.’
So with that in mind, should we care about the rise of ‘fake news’? Did it affect the presidential election? Is there a solution? And what does it mean for journalism in a digital era?
Of course we can all agree ‘fake news’ is dangerous territory. Many Americans are already skeptical and untrusting of the media, partisanship and media priming playing a large role in how individual's rank national issues. Republicans are much more likely to be anti-media and yet ironically, the rise of ‘fake news’ played a significant role in Trump's presidential campaign.
Trump was able to reach the masses through tweets at 3am, placing himself amongst the electorate on a much more personal level. All the while he was receiving hundreds of thousands of retweets, likes and shares, further enhancing his political interests. Whether people gave the president-elect attention through genuine support or not, his message, face and presence was shared on a much higher rate than that of Clinton.
“Facebook dismissed their human editors long ago, but is this something they should consider reinstating? Or should the site ban ‘fake’ news altogether?
According to Silverman and the content search tool Buzzsumo, 17 out of the 20 most viewed ‘fake news’ on Facebook favoured Trump, and whilst I’m not suggesting Facebook was the sole cause of trump’s shock victory, if individuals are not receiving their presidential news from other sources due to skepticism, Zuckerberg cannot dismiss their role. Facebook has used an algorithm to establish which news stories will acquire the greatest views, and these are the stories that appear on our timeline. Facebook dismissed their human editors long ago, but is this something they should consider reinstating? Or should the site ban ‘fake’ news altogether?
Of course the issue is greater than simply banning untrue articles. Freedom of speech and opinionated pieces are grey areas. Can we blame Facebook if citizens read stories from ‘The Onion’ as true word? The site has become misinformative to the highest degree, but who is to blame? For example, my parents are on Facebook, and I for one know they would not dream of consuming political news on Facebook, and nor would I. So is it an issue of journalistic ignorance and integrity? Have newspapers been destroyed by social networking sites? If people really wanted to know the truth, they could have gone to a hundred other legitimate news sources.
Zuckerberg stated that Facebook has never, and will never, claim to be a legitimate news source. But if its users are viewing it as one, is this something the founder has to address? In my opinion, it is, and the outcome of the Presidential election is very desperate proof of this. Should Facebook’s profiteering really come before true journalistic news, especially over something as internationally important as the US elections?
“‘Fake news’ is surely a one-way ticket to further political, racial and intellectual ignorance and therefore it must be addressed
The other issue is, once something is post on the net- it’s out there for life. Whether or not someone deletes a tweet or article in hindsight doesn’t affect the thousands and often millions of people that have already seen it. Factual checking after a post is useless in this day and age. Which only leaves a pre-post ‘filter’ that will determine a post’s factual quantities. A year ago, I would have said this was an unnecessary and undemocratic solution, but somehow it now appears to be the only solution. ‘Fake news’ is surely a one-way ticket to further political, racial and intellectual ignorance and therefore it must be addressed.
I don’t believe it’s responsible of Zuckerberg to dismiss the prospect of a ‘factual’ algorithm. If individuals are now using Facebook as a news source, whether or not that’s what Facebook intended, they have to take responsibility. The question that lingers is whether this is the new face of news. I hope, for the sake of society’s progression, it is not.