Getting Informed through Facebook: A Risk

9

December

2016

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Through its massive proportions, Facebook has become an important outlet for news and media. Lots of people get their daily updates of what happens around the world from what is being liked and shared on Facebook. However, this phenomenon has given rise to so-called “fake news”. The terminology leaves nothing to the imagination. These posts entail completely made-up stories, often tailoring to populistic topics in order to generate the most amount of views.  The problem became especially prevalent during the recent elections in the United States; an array of misinformation proliferated across social media, giving skewed, or down-right wrong, impressions of events and statements. Facebook has acknowledged the problem, and is working on a solution.

 

Users have noticed a new feature to appear on their Facebook webpage. Under a shared article, a Likert scale is provided (The Guardian, 2016). This scale asks the user whether or not the article withholds any important information of the article, rated from “Not at all” to “Completely”. With this feature, articles can be given a rating of validity. Users can then base their trust of the truthfulness of the article on that rating.

 

Independent initiatives to battle fake news are also going online. BS Detector is a plugin for web-browsers that checks the source of an article against a database of known fake news sources. If an article is recognized as originating from a blacklisted site, the plugin will insert a red banner over the article with a warning of the potential of misinformation.

 

Despite actions currently undertaken, fake news will still be found in abundance on social media. We must all still rely on our own judgement of the reliability and validity of a news article being shared on Facebook. Technology has allowed us all to reach each other. It is up to us to be our own BS detector, and not believe anything shared on Facebook without second thought.

 

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/06/facebook-tool-fake-news-rank-misleading-language-data-collecting

Featured Image:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/37992793/i-write-fake-news-that-gets-shared-on-facebook

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5 thoughts on “Getting Informed through Facebook: A Risk”

  1. Dear Christiaan, thanks for your post on fake news on Facebook. I also noticed it becoming more and more prevalent, and was wondering myself how Facebook could tackle this problem. The implementation of a Likert scale seems like a good possible solution, however, I have not witnessed it myself yet. Is this feature region specific? I personally had not heard of the BS detector myself yet, but seems like a a good initiative as well, however, this is specifically for people who are already concerned with the fact that news articles could potentially be fake, and thus are already more alert. Perhaps Facebook could implement a similar detection system themselves to help the majority of ignorant people.

    Luca

  2. Hi Christiaan, thanks for the interesting read. I’m really positive about the fact that Facebook is trying to stop the fake news, or at least make it clear to its users that is is probably fake. Facebook is an extremely important news provider for a lot of citizens. This has an impact on society, like the elections in U.S.A. where the fake news was spread that the pope was a fan of Donald Trump. For a lot of people, that is a reason to reconsider their vote. I totally agree on the fact that we should try to validate the news we read on facebook, but for a lot of naive people this could be a little bit harder.

  3. Dear Christiaan! Thank you for your interesting post. I very much enjoyed this due to the fact that it is a very ineteresting topic. The issue at matter is not so much what people automatically belief when they like or share something on social media. It is much bigger than that. Bigger in the sense that, popular belief is steered from much larger companies, such as large media outlets. The news in the US for instance is controlled by 6 major outlets (GE, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, CBS and Time Warners) that can brainwash you into thinking that you’re thinking for yourself.

  4. Hi Christiaan,
    Thanks for your post! I would like to add to this that Facebook already does try to combat the problem of fake news on a smaller scale with the following steps: ‘click v in corner of post – report post – I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook – it’s a false news story.’ However, the question then arises how many people actually take their time to report such a story – which we can deduce is very few, considering the number of fake stories being spread still. To counter this, I think that Facebook should simplify the aforementioned reporting process (the shorter it is, the more likely people will help) and it should implement a detection system (as Luca stated earlier). Another suggestion, made by Bloomberg Technology, would be to alter the Facebook algorithm so that ‘real’ articles (from e.g. FactCheck.org) would show up next to ‘potentially fake’ articles on your newsfeed (if you want to know more, check out the following link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-23/facebook-s-quest-to-stop-fake-news-risks-becoming-slippery-slope).

    1. Dear Shannon, I had no idea that you can actually report a false news story! I knew that you can report photos or stories you deem inappropriate, but I did not know you can mark an article as ‘fake’. Hence, I guess why many people aren’t reporting is also because they do not know they can report a fake article 🙂

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