Facebook or Fakebook?
Let’s be clear about what he — and we — mean by “fake news.” The term has been hijacked by conservatives who are using it as one more weapon to attack the mainstream media. And it’s certainly true that even the best reporters make mistakes, or have blind spots. But that’s not fake news. Fake news is deliberately fabricated to generate clicks, to make money and, in some cases, to alter the political debate.
Pew reports that 23 percent of American adults have shared fake news stories with others, and 64 percent said made-up news has caused “a great deal of confusion” among voters.
So it’s a serious issue, and as a first step, Facebook is crowdsourcing the problem, “testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook,” says Mosseri.
Those reports will be forwarded to third party fact-checking organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact. If those services “identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed,” explains Mosseri.
You’ll still have the choice to share a flagged story, but it will carry a clear warning.
In addition, Facebook is “doing several things to reduce the financial incentives” for hoaxers by cutting off their ability to sell ads through the site.
These are good steps, but small ones, and they do nothing to solve another huge problem: Facebook algorithms that create “echo chambers” by sending readers only news articles that mirror the choices and preferences they’ve expressed in the past.
“Because Facebook tailors your News Feed based on your own behavior, you inadvertently become victim of your own biases,” Nelson Granados, a professor of information systems at Pepperdine, writes in Forbes.
The power of fake news is reinforced by these echo chambers. People who are insulated from dissent or contradiction develop “tunnel vision,” says Granados, and are more likely to believe fake stories that comport with their worldview — no matter how outlandish.
One answer: Facebook could mimic a well- edited op- ed page. Alter the algorithms to make sure a certain number of “cross-cutting” stories are provided in every News Feed. People cannot be forced to read them, but at least they’ll see another light in their tunnel.
Facebook is a great innovation, but it has to make sure it doesn’t become Fakebook.
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at steve[email protected] com.