Social media platforms stand in the forefront as the ultimate shared space for engagement. It is difficult to discount the new media age we are now in and how big of a scale the digital and interactive processes have changed throughout the years. As social media sites have now become the leading source for news, users have become participants as a result by spreading and commenting on these news. According to the Pew Research Center, recent studies show that two-thirds (67%) of Americans get their news on social media (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017). From this percentage, there are people who will believe and share these unverified claims. Having said that, content that initiates discussion is the sole factor that makes social networking sites the outlet for posting trending news. Whether it’d be fake or not, these outlets have no filter. Whose responsibility is it then to filter out these fake news? Is it the responsibility of social media companies or social media news consumers?
Following the 2016 US election, fake stories took a toll on the public where it triggered the infamous “Pizzagate” incident (Fisher, Cox, & Hermann, 2016). Since then, social media companies struggled to make their platform as democratic and as civil as possible. As expected, it is very time consuming and costly for social media companies to address the problem of fake news. However, Facebook has taken the initiative to combat election interference last month as a way to address the fake news situation. Watch Mark Zuckerberg outline the company’s plan to fight election interference in this short video below:
The 9 steps as stated in the video:
- Continue working with the US government
- Continue internal Facebook investigation
- Make political ads more transparent
- Strengthen ad review
- Increasing election security and integrity
- Expand election partnerships globally
- Increasing collaboration with other tech companies
- Strengthen the democratic process
- Continue work monitoring the German election
From what Zuckerberg explained, it seems like providing publisher information is Facebook’s ultimate way at fighting fake news. To put that into action, Facebook has recently launched a new feature where there would be a lowercase “i” next to articles. The “info” button supposedly allows Facebook users to look more into the news sources with just a click (This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News, 2017).
What is funny is that the public is reacting negatively to this and calling this “fake news” instead. I found the same video above uploaded on YouTube by many different users and every one of them has as many dislikes as likes. And from what I can see in the comment section, most users are criticizing the nature of the “truth” in the video, claiming that Facebook is the one undermining democracy through censorship and attacking the US government and Zuckerberg himself. Along with their plan, the company handed 3000 Russia-linked ads, which contributed to spreading misleading information before the 2016 election, over to the US congress. Despite all of these attempts to fight fake news, Facebook continues to be criticized for the dissemination of fake stories following last year’s presidential election. Ultimately, the nature of the “truth” is questioned by many people since fake news appears to have the tendency to impact public knowledge. While social media companies like Facebook attempts to address the situation of fake news, many people are triggered by its validity and perhaps, the profit that social networking sites are making is the reason why people have trust issues.
Fake news or not, some social media platforms have no intentions to filter out fake news and they don’t have to. This is because social media companies operate on them. They make money off of these lies and there is an economy that follows it (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake stories get people talking and that is the main reason why social media platforms are an ideal space for engagement. Social media consumers are able to share, like, dislike, comment, post, tweet which creates this online community that welcomes everyone, including their thoughts. People are active and online discussing the topic despite it being good or bad, or true or false, and this type of behaviour brings in money. This is essentially where Internet revenues and profit come from. On Twitter for example, fake news are capable of generating thousands of tweets and retweets. With this significant amount, Twitter is using this engagement factor to get sponsorships from advertisers and to put this into perspective, Twitter earns 85 percent of its revenues from advertising (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake news are strong drivers of profit and if we can’t rely on social media companies to filter out these fake news, can we, as social media news consumers, make a difference? Are we able to identify what is fake and what is real?
How do you identify fake news? Even with social media companies’ attempts to provide tools for users to get more context on the news source, the most reliable tool is to use your own common sense (Annett, 2017). Remember, trust no one.
First, filter out the sites that you don’t know. Ask yourself if you trust the source of the information first. Especially the ones that you don’t normally visit, the ones that just have pure entertainment value, or the ones that you know are the usual suspects of fake news. Trust your instinct and use your common sense because that will narrow down your options of which ones to skip and which ones to trust. Next, look for indicators that verifies its validity and credibility. For example, many social media platforms now have the blue verification checkmark beside their username. Aside from that, look out for misspelled words because that will discount their reliability. Lastly, see if they are in tuned with other news sources because social networking sites can be inconsistent so make sure the details match up (Annett, 2017).
We have all encountered fake news at one point since our generation is so consumed by the new media. Rather than saying the world is getting bigger, the world is actually getting smaller because we are connected to news from different parts of the world through the Internet. We are able to expand our knowledge about the world and stay connected with everyone. Because we are so connected, it makes it easier for us to be exposed to outrageous and unverified claims. And the more we see something, the more we believe it. Since fake news have the potential to become viral, it also makes it easier for us to believe in them. Fake news are everywhere at this point but with the appropriate steps, we can avoid them.
Annett, E. (2017, June 19). What is ‘fake news,’ and how can you spot it? Try our quiz. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/community/digital-lab/fake-news-quiz-how-to-spot/article33821986/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com&
Fake news and online harassment are more than social media byproducts – theyre powerful prof… (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.salon.com/2016/12/17/fake-news-and-online-harassment-are-more-than-social-media-byproducts-theyre-powerful-profit-drivers/
Fisher, M., Cox, J. W., & Hermann, P. (2016, December 06). Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/pizzagate-from-rumor-to-hashtag-to-gunfire-in-dc/2016/12/06/4c7def50-bbd4-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.678557d48678
This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2017/10/05/facebook-test-more-info-button-fake-news/
Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 07). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/