When fake news proliferates on social media, whose fault is it? That question seems to be permeating dialogue about the next stage in media evolution these days. There’s absolutely no question that Facebook is a major player in media these days. While the company doesn’t produce the news, it controls one of the largest and most popular ways many hundreds of millions of people get their news every day.
With such a massive market out there, it’s a cinch businesses will want to connect with it. So will some folks who like getting clicks more than sharing legitimate information. Fake news has become a major industry in the social media era, and many people are calling on Facebook and other social networks to put a stop to it.
In an effort to meet that demand, Facebook will be working with outside fact checkers to filter news that’s tagged as fake. In addition, Facebook says they have plans to make it simpler for users to report fake news if they come across it. The company plans to flag stories that are reported “enough” times, then it will pass along the content to third party fact checkers belonging to the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.
At present, these groups include ABC News, The AP, FactCheck.org, Politifact, and Snopes. This is just the beginning, though. Facebook said they plan to expand fact-checking operations.
To stave off premature accusations of censorship, Facebook has no plans to remove the “fake” content. Instead, the company will flag the content as disputed, which will push the content lower on news feeds and allow users to click a link to learn why the news was flagged.
This is the tightrope that Facebook must walk. The company is committed to operating an open media environment, where people feel free to post how they feel and content that is of interest to them, but that doesn’t mean the site is beholden to those who are just trying to sucker people.
The public relations issue here is in how the plan is implemented and how people react to it. Already, purveyors of media most likely to get tagged as “fake” are fighting back, filling feeds with diatribes about how Facebook is trying to “censor alternative views” and accusing the company of trying to deceive people.
Those prone to want to believe those things likely will. It will be up to Facebook’s more open-minded users to make the decision on where they would like to see the line drawn … if at all.