Facebook Fighting Fake News

Is Facebook fighting “fake news” or are they potentially discouraging freedom of expression, free speech, and “punking” the little guys?

Facebook is diligently working to combat an issue with the circulation of misleading news. They are providing an educational resource with tips on how to identify this type of content. They are also making it easier to report. They are working on launching a sort of ranking system that allows Facebook users to down-vote content as well.

In addition to allowing Facebook users to take the initiative to be more active in their pursuit and regulation of misleading content, they began working with third party fact-checking organizations to help regulate this news.

They’ve launched a “Facebook Journalism Project” and “News Integrity Initiative” in which they have partnered with several organizations to combat the spread of false information. They are releasing PSA’s that bring attention to the importance of knowing how to recognize hoaxes.

They are involving themselves in initiatives to improve Facebook users’ ability to decipher and rank the news in hopes of discouraging the poor practices of those who manipulate the news in a deceitful way for profit.

Three Key Areas of Focus

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They break down their plan into three key areas of focus:

  • They want to educate their users on how to make informed decisions about the news they read.
  • They are attempting to discourage the spread of misleading content by building new products that can be used to report misleading content.
  • They began taking action to regulate financial incentives to discourage the spread of fake news by those engaging dishonest business practices.

Fake News Facebook Educational Tool

Educational Tool

An educational tool will begin to populate at the top of Facebook users’ news feeds. When selecting the “Learn More” tab, it directs users to a “Help Center” with resources containing specific tips on how to decipher the news.

First of all, Facebook users are encouraged to consider the news source. They suggest examining the URL and looking for additional sources with the same news topic. They advise users to be wary of a funky title and formatting. They also explain how the date of the publication could even indicate foul play.

Some Content is Supposed to be Funny

Some news is meant to be satirical. They further explain this in the breakdown of their educational resources. Some news stories are meant to be so ridiculous that nobody could possibly believe them and that’s why people laugh. Apparently, not everyone gets the joke, so that’s why Facebook feels the need to supply these educational resources now.

Reporting Misleading Content

Facebook is trying to make it easier for their users to report false news stories by including additional options built into the anatomy of Facebook posts. Now they are placing an option in the top right corner of these posts for reporting misleading content. They will implement a type of ranking system for articles. They are attempting to allow users to have more control over reporting these articles with an option to see if others have reported a particular post as being false as well.

Pros

They have a decent approach to resolving this issue and they appear to be on the right track by attempting to educate their users on how to identify fake news on their own. This is definitely a good thing. Having the ability to rank news articles on Facebook is also a pretty good idea just for the sake of allowing talented writers and news of substance to have a chance to be up-voted by contrast.

A lot of other websites already do this. Implementing the use of dedicated professional fact-checkers is also a logical decision that could help with ensuring that these new features are not abused themselves.

Cons

What seems to be a bit problematic about all of this, though, is the fact that Facebook is attempting to provide resources that are readily available for users to use as a guide for deciphering the news, not everyone will even look at them. This is concerning because not everyone inherently knows how to properly identify fake news.

What’s more, is it’s alarming to consider the possibility that Facebook users who think they know how to identify misleading content, may have no clue at all. These individuals might even end up being the worst offenders for abusing these new features and completely throwing off Facebook algorithms that so many depend on for business and other pursuits.

If a majority of Facebook users already knew how to identify misleading news, we wouldn’t have a demand for these new type of services. If we end up with a whole slew of people who don’t know how to decipher the news, and they report articles that they think are fake but are really not; this could just create a mess.

These new features could end up being abused by Facebook users who simply do not agree with the content of a particular article. For example, there are those who refuse to even consider the political viewpoints of others. So when matters of opinion are publicly shared and expressed, it’s possible that some Facebook users will knowingly use these new options as an opportunity to flag well-written articles out of spite.

Similarly, the way that trolls are known for infiltrating the comments section of certain “viral” posts that show up across Facebook feeds, it is very plausible that resentful individuals would also be most likely to take their frustrations out on the writers of content that in-fact, expresses a mere matter of opinion. Even though many people may disagree with a particular viewpoint it does not make it fake.

These new options could potentially open the door to allow discriminatory attitudes to negatively effect the hard work of these freelancers who depend on the use of social media to make an honest living. Even though there are those who abuse social media by spamming groups with click-bait and other junk, that is not the case for everyone who uses Facebook to advertise for their businesses and make money on advertising revenue.

There are several small businesses and creative entities who use social media as a tool to advertise and to share accurate and credible information. Improper use of these new tools could have a seriously detrimental affect on those who create content on a small scale and have been able to make a living doing so for years.

Suggestions for Implementing this Plan

What could be a reasonable solution to the issue of regulating the news, is making it mandatory for Facebook users who want to participate in the regulation of misleading content, to review the educational resources on deciphering fake news. Facebook users could even take a quiz at the end and click a checkbox to acknowledge their understanding of these educational resources. Users should really be required to do this before these new options appear in their Facebook feeds.

If Facebook users begin abusing these features, then they should lose their privileges. What a lot of people do not understand is that although there are a lot of click-bait and fake news, as previously stated, there are several small businesses and individuals who rely on social media to market and share their work.

Potential Harm

Freedom of Expression and Livelihood of the Little Guys

When you start messing around with these algorithms and put the power of determining what content users are able to see in their feeds into the hands of those who don’t already know or care enough to do their do-diligence in deciphering the news themselves, it could create problems.

Fake News Facebook

Depending on how these new features are implemented and maintained, it could threaten or discourage individuals from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and free speech. Writers could easily become discouraged from creating honest, creative content based on the idea that their audience might disagree with what they have to say and subsequently flag their content as being fake news. This could potentially damage the integrity of the news even though it is clearly an attempt to improve it.

As previously discussed, abuse of these new features could even go as far as to negatively affect the livelihood of small freelancers who depend on Facebook users who show interest in the topics that they report on, to share their content. A lot of freelancers do honest hard work and are just trying to get enough exposure to prove their worth as writers so that they can get paid.

Final Thoughts and Questions

In theory, it all sounds like a good idea, but after a closer look, there are a few things that could benefit everyone if they were altered. Putting a huge emphasis and focus on trying to motivate people to do their own research is the best option. Working with professionals to help curb some of the nonsense that seems to clog up a lot of feeds could be a reasonable option as well.

What do you think? Do you think this opens up the door for Facebook to control our feeds more-so than they already do? Do you think that this could cut out the hard-working, honest little guys? Do you think this could be taken advantage of in a way that could potentially violate our rights under the First Amendment? Do you think that this could completely cut out the little guys eventually causing us to exclusively be exposed to the verbal garbage of the major news outlets? Let us know in the comments.

[More: Internet Privacy’s Future. Hint: It’s Not Really Changing, It Still Sucks}

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