Have you scrolled down your Facebook newsfeed today? Who am I kidding, of course you have! In that case you’ve probably witnessed more fake news than memes. Firstly, let’s clarify exactly what fake news is. Fake news is defined by the Collins dictionary as false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. However, this may soon be a thing of the past – with recent measures in place, fake news is very gradually becoming demoted.
Fake news goes beyond just clickbait – it’s now perceived as one of the all time greatest threats to democracy, free speech and the Western order. For many years, no-one could agree on what to do and how to implement a strategy to control the problem, this is where a magnitude of complexities began.
Globally, news publishers report that 50% to 80% of their digital following comes from Facebook. Although, Zuckerberg seems to struggle to accept that Facebook’s widespread audience and our role as online news consumers determines the way in which news content is interpreted. Studies conducted indicate that 71% of 18-24 year olds use social media to access news. This pattern of consumption is being driven by all age groups, however young Australians are the greatest contributors.
In an attempt to mitigate the distribution of fake news, Facebook recently announced that it would rank news organisations based on how credible users judged them to actually be. This process requires the social media giant to assign each of its members with a rating between zero and one to determine how reliable they are when reporting fake news. Posts suspected to be fake news will be booted from the Facebook newsfeed.
Facebook executive, Tessa Lyons, clarifies that the score is meant to make it easier to combat fake news since reports from users who are positioned as trustworthy will be taken more seriously by Facebook’s fact checkers. Facebook also employs multiple third-party fact-checkers certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. For each piece of content up for review, the third-party fact-checker determines the accuracy of the story and provides a final rating. This process is marked in accordance to eight rating options as follows:
- Not eligible
- Prank generator
- Not rated
Facebook has outlined three major action-centred approaches to put an end to the distribution of fake news. Firstly, content distribution will be reduced and consumers who intend to share the post will also be notified of any additional reporting. Secondly, pages that are consistently reported for ‘false’ news will have their accessibility to monetise and to advertise wiped. Finally, pages and websites that continue to post fake news will lose all rights and privileges to to register as a news domain on Facebook.
Can you spot fake news?
Well here you have it, leading researcher Jason Reifler chats all things fake news! This video unpacks the truth behind many fake news stories, including a tweet on May 21, 2017 by media host, Paul Barry. This story claimed that the Trump impeachment process had already begun. Attached to the tweet was a link to a blog post alleging that the court had subsequently notified Trump that the case for his impeachment had been verified. Watch the video below in the quest to reveal even more renowned fake news stories!
Previously, Facebook has also been accused by some of using its fight against fake news to ignore right-wing views. Donald Trump in particular has accused social media companies of favouring left-wing viewpoints. Recently, Trump again took to Twitter to argue that, “They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.” Coincidently, Trump has close ties with Rupert Murdoch, media empire of Fox and News Corp. That leaves us to question, perhaps that news is also distorted. Essentially, conservatives and liberals are equally more inclined to favour false news stories that support their point of view.
Another slightly different variation of fake news was the story titled, Did The Justice Department Demand Information for ‘Anti- Trump Activists?’ In October, 2018 social media users recirculated different versions of this story about search warrants which had actually been issued in the year prior.
There is no doubt that it has been an ongoing battle for Facebook in the fight to eliminate false news stories being disrupted across digital media. Independent fact-checkers such as Snopes is also a highly regarded online resource who work to debunk fake news and viral rumours regarding news stories. Unfortunately, the race to be first to break leading news headlines often means at times fact checking falls by the wayside.
This is where journalists can be held accountable.
What can journalists do to overcome the issues and concerns surrounding misinformation and fake news? Although there is no simple answer to that question, fact-checking is absolutely crucial in the fast paced industry of news production and distribution. It is important that each newsroom examine potential actions and agree on worthwhile experiments to disseminate the spread of fake news for their own individual audiences.
Ultimately, this challenge may present itself as a unique opportunity to reveal to the Facebook world what REAL journalism is capable of such as saving democracy and actually converting the minds of those who have been misinformed by fake news.