Facebook is finally going to crack down on fake news and hoaxes, sort of. After denying that fake news and Facebook’s indifferent attitude towards bogus stories had any influence on the outcome of the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg changed his tune recently and stated that the popular social media site would begin to address the problem.
In the past, Facebook had said that it would prioritize posts from friends and push clickbait down, but it wasn’t hard for individuals to find a way around the algorithm which was woefully ineffective.
Clickbait and fake news has always been a problem on Facebook and other media platforms, and people around the world, especially in Macedonia, have made a living by simply plagiarizing or making up stories.
It isn’t hard to buy the services of a bot farm to artificially inflate SEO scores, Facebook engagement, or the ranking of a link all the way to the front page of Reddit. 4Chan trolls and Trump supporters on Reddit were able to make it look like Donald Trump had won the presidential debates against Hillary Clinton. This same practice can also be used to shut down fact-checkers and whistleblowers, something I personally experienced some years back with an article I wrote that was critical of the Facebook page Being Liberal.
Utilizing fake profiles and pages posing as legitimate political causes or celebrity fan pages, millions of social media users have been duped into reading and sharing links that resulted in dumbing down the public. It is highly likely that false stories paid a role in the election of Donald Trump, especially from groups that tried to convince supporters of Bernie Sanders not to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Here is the announcement concerning the new effort against hoaxes, via Politifact:
“Facebook today announced a series of changes to combat the proliferation of fake news. As part of that effort, which you can read more about here, PolitiFact has agreed to help fact-check suspicious claims that are being shared on the social media platform.
In short, Facebook is making it easier to report a hoax while also making it easier for independent fact-checkers such as PolitiFact to dispute the story.
Initially, Facebook is working with a small group of third-party fact-checkers that are part of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network. (PolitiFact is a member as part of the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by Poynter.)
If enough people on Facebook report a story as fake, fact checkers including PolitiFact can identify a story as fake, and then the original post will get flagged as disputed, and there will be a link to our article explaining why.” (Source)
On the bright side, this will mean plenty of work for fact-checkers at websites like Snopes and Politifact. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is going to help much, and here is why.
Confirmation bias will cause individuals who follow a page like Breitbart on the right, or Occupy Democrats on the left, to see this as a censorship campaign by Facebook. These websites and the Facebook pages they control will issue pleas to their fans to like and share their links even more, because Evil Lord Schmuckerberg is secretly aligned with whatever boogeyman they’ve dreamed up.
Infowars will blame the Jewish-globalist-controlled media (seriously, we don’t control the media like they think), and Addicting Info will blame Donald Trump for suppressing their twisted interpretations of legitimate news stories.
On Reddit, subreddits (forums) like /r/conspiracy or /r/the_Donald are already screaming about censorship and the loss of First Amendment rights. As I’ve written before, the First Amendment does not apply to the decisions of private corporations, but good luck trying to explain that to about half of the population of the United States.
If anything, the owners of these websites will use Facebook’s new tags and warnings as “proof” they are being unfairly persecuted for “speaking the truth” or sharing “facts” the mainstream media wants to hide. They may lose some fans and some ad revenue, but chances are this change will only galvanize support from their most ardent sycophants.
The fake news horse already bolted the barn long ago, and Facebook’s latest effort is once again too little, too late.