After many accusations that Facebook’s fake news problem helped Donald Trump win the presidency, the social network recently announced that it is developing ways to help resolve the fake news issue.
Amidst allegations of its fake news problem, Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook that 99 percent of content on Facebook is authentic. However, the Facebook CEO has since backed way from that statement, admitting that fake news is a huge problem on his network.
During a panel discussion at Harvard’s Campaign Managers Conference about the role social media played in the 2016 Presidential Election, Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and public policy at Facebook, said that, “For so long, we had resisted having standards about whether something’s newsworthy because we did not consider ourselves a service that was predominantly for the distribution of news, and that was wrong.”
It’s interesting that Schrage and the Facebook team only admits to this now, considering that Pew Research reported in May (so well before the election) that 44 percent of Americans get their news on Facebook and Twitter. Knowing that, you would think Facebook would have recognized how large of a role it plays in distributing the news—and would play during an important event, such as the United States Presidential Election.
In their defense, Facebook users have always had the ability report news articles they deem as spam or inappropriate by using the “report” feature. But to make amends for this fake news problem, Facebook is planning a new feature that will hopefully remove fake news from the platform, or at least make it harder for it to show up in user feeds and go vial.
How Facebook is planning to combat fake news
Photo by Carl Court / Getty Images.
Reports indicate that Facebook is currently working to develop a Snapchat Discover-like feature for their news feed. Facebook has allegedly contacted publishers to discuss creating “highly-curated” content to be included in their news section. Just like Facebook copied Snapchat’s story feed for Instagram Stories, it sounds like we’ll be seeing yet another copycat feature soon.
In addition to this Snapchat-like feature, Facebook has also said it plans to make it easier for users to report fake news stories and hoaxes, as well as develop a way for its algorithm to detect and remove fake links before they even land on their news feed. And lastly, following Google’s footsteps, Facebook said it would cut advertisements for sites that are promoting fake, misleading or illegal websites.
If Facebook does implement a discover feature for its news section with curated content, it would likely help combat its fake news problem, as the company would be able to oversee what the publications are publishing—as well as control who can publish stories in this curated feed.
But…what about smaller publications?
If Facebook implements a Discover feature, it will be great for major publications to get their stories to the front of everyone’s feed, as well as to maintain their credibility since Facebook is trying to weed out any fake sources. But, what about other publications who are not as big, that have not been around as long or don’t have the finances to be in the Discover feature?
While they’ll still exist on Facebook, it will be interesting to see how the platform will prioritize its curated content over any other media and news outlets.
This would make appearing in a Facebook Discover feature not only about credibility, but also about money. For example, it’s unclear exactly how payment works between Snapchat and the publications seen in its Discover feature, but I’ve seen reports say that some channels have to guarantee a minimum amount of money over a certain amount of time, plus all firms have to pay Snapchat around 30 percent of ad revenue earned from stories in Discover.
I assume Facebook would have a similar model because let’s be real: this is going to be about money and who can afford to be a part of a Discover feature on a platform where 44 percent of Americans get their news. That’s a lot of exposure and the ability to be curated to that will not come cheaply.
And how exactly will Facebook determine who is credible and who isn’t?
Photo by Dan Kitwood / Getty Images.
The bigger issue with a potential Discover feature on Facebook is that it will give the social platform the opportunity to censor our news. When and if they do publish this feature, I will want to know how they determined which publications to allow at the forefront; especially considering the company has previously been caught exercising a political bias in trending news.
Moreover, we still have yet to really define what makes something fake news or not. One person might call Fox News biased and fake, whereas another would call CNN the same. Do we really need to bring up the media collusion that happened during the campaign? How could Facebook possibly hope to cater to both parties?
Plus, I imagine that, like Snapchat Discover, we’ll see a lot more entertainment news on Facebook (which already is an issue) instead of real news—so does that count as fake news? I mean seriously, why do we let publications push all these stupid stories about the Kardashians and their family drama ahead of real, political and social issues? In the end, people click on the stuff they click on—no one can change that except for the people clicking on it.
While all of Facebook’s plans for combating fake news are still in development, we’ll have to wait and see how exactly Facebook plans to take on this issue and make it harder for fake news to survive on the Internet.