We’ve all seen fake news pop up on our Facebook newsfeed with friends and relatives sharing the links to these false articles with comments like “can you believe this?!” No, I can’t; the Pope isn’t throwing his support behind candidates running for office, he has other concerns. Since the 2016 election fake news has been blamed for every thing that happens that someone doesn’t like…it’s even become a punch line. It is absolutely a real concern but “fake news” has now become an almost urban legend like concept. Fake news has been around for a very long time but the recent inundation of it on social media gives the appearance that it is a new concept with social media is getting the blame.
Facebook has taken the brunt of these accusations against social media because the spread of these false articles are so prominent on the platform. This has put a lot of pressure on Facebook, so much so that they are now taking steps to combat fake news by educating users on how to identify it and how to report it. When I signed onto Facebook last week I was greeted with a post from Facebook called “How to spot false news”:
This is a good way to let Facebook users know that the company is aware of the fake news inundation issue and actively working on ways to fix it. The most important thing Facebook did in this case is provide a way to educate users on identifying fake news. One of the biggest issues is that people believe everything without checking where the article came from, a date, or sometimes without even reading the article. If we can educate people to be aware of fake news and to investigate or question what they are reading it will take some of the power away from these fake news generators. Creating a feature on Facebook to report fake news is also a great move, and one I will be using.
The only issue I have with this is that this post was there only once, after one viewing it was gone. The general rule for most people is “out of sight, out of mind.” The typical Facebook user isn’t going to go looking for this post again in search or settings and will most likely forget about it. This should have been affixed to the the top of every Facebook user’s feed for a week in order to create a lasting impression.
Other social media platforms should take a similar approach in platform appropriate ways; educate and provide a way to report fake news. Teaching people to be aware of fake news and how to spot it, along with allowing them to ways to flag possible fake news, are excellent ways to stem the fake news flow online.