After the election the MSM collectively alleged that “fake news sites” had swung the election in Donald Trump’s favor. Mark Zuckerberg had scoffed at such claims, calling them “crazy” but has since radically changed his tune and since vowed to, “Take misinformation seriously.” However, Zuckerberg failed to elaborate further upon either a specific timeline or plan of action. This has incensed a wide variety of fact checking organizations such as Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network whose leader, Alexios Mantzarlis, has publicly stated that Facebook is the internet’s foremost purveyor of “fake news.” Mr. Mantzarlis believes that Facebook is one of the only online organizations that has both the power, reach and influence to “push back” against the dissemination of false and misleading stories (or rather, stories that Mr. Mantzarlis simply believes to be false).
But Mantzarlis’ organization is far from alone in calling out Facebook. Politifact, FactCheck.org and WaPo’s Fact Checker wrote a collective open letter to Mark Zuckerberg which called upon him to, “Start an open conversation on the principles that could underpin a more accurate news ecosystem on its News Feed.”
Despite what one’s feeling about the ongoing “fake news” scare happen to be, Facebook’s reaction to it could be quite tremendous. Though Facebook did not begin it’s online life as a news network it has since become one of the largest news aggregating sites on the web. For context, consider the fact that 66% (two thirds) of all Facebook users get their news from the site. Extrapolating the data further, also consider that Facebook reaches around 67% of all adults in the United States . This means, naturally, that the majority of adults in the United States get some of (around 44%), if not all, of their news off of Facebook.
There are numerous different proposals for the various ways in which Facebook could tackle this so-called “fake news,” including tagging all designated false news sites with a big, red badge-icon but leaving it up, or, indexing designated sites and then having a hand-picked team of verifiers pull such sites out of subscriber newsfeeds.
Zuckerburg has publicly posted that he and his company fully intend to “disrupt the fake news economy” as well as to cut off ad revenue to such sites. Regardless of whether or not you use Facebook, it’s reach and power will doubtless cause other similar social media sites to pay attention and, very likely, follow in its footsteps. Something for all of you Facebook users out there to keep in mind is that plenty of websites which are perfectly legitimate, such as Breitbart and us here at New Media Central, have been designated as false news for purely political or financial reasons. Keep your wits about you.
- Data mentioned comes from Pew Research polls conducted in Jan. 12 – Feb. 8 during 2016