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Facebook Commences It's Fight Against Fake News

10 Mar, 2017
Facebook Commences It is Fight Against Fake News

Like it or not, Facebook has become one of the world’s largest media empires, helping circulate things, all things, faster than the speed of light. Sometimes, on a good day, Facebook can be faster than even Trump can tweet.

And no matter how much people may deny it, a huge portion of the human race is currently influenced by what they read on their Facebook News Feed – be it emotional videos, tech news, vacation spots, product launches, or simply “sensational news”. The fact that an algorithm and a huge web of friends, relatives and acquaintances are all wound together inextricably, means that a significant amount of what one gets to see, is popular because others in our trusted ‘circle of life’ considers something important.
Unfortunately, thanks to information overload and Notification Deluge, most of us now do not check other sources/websites to validate what we read on Facebook.

But there’s a nuance that most people miss.

Let’s take an example. Say you’re looking to buy a baby stroller, from a recognisable brand. Now, if you see a post from a friend about a stroller she got for her little one, you’d go check out that brand and that model on the brand’s website, right?
You might even FB Messenger or WhatsApp your friend directly, to check on her experience with the vehicle, and the store she got it from.
Additionally, a lot of us also make it a point to head over to Google and read experts’ reviews about the stroller. Yet more of us make it a point to then head to Amazon’s website, and check out real-world users’ unbiased and personal reviews of the stroller. We’d check the percentage of people who up-voted it, and those who disapproved of it. Then we’d read the write-ups (from the latter, especially).
Only once we were convinced we had enough knowledge about that particular stroller, would we make our purchase decision – primarily because it involves spending our hard earned money.

Well, most of us don’t do that for the News we read on Facebook!

Most people read the headline, glance at the photo and move ahead. But somewhere, the topic sticks to our synapses. Other, more conscientious people (or those troubled/impacted by the headline) actually read the entire article… on Facebook. And thus the seed is planted.

The proportion of people who actually head over to a bona fide news site to read more about the incident or to get another viewpoint on it, is infinitesimally small. So small in fact, that there aren’t any stats out there from any known/reputed research organizations.

The problem thus, is that in this day and age of content overload, Facebook is our biggest newspaper – personalised, real-time, and often, wrong.

People are misinformed easily, simply because till now, an algorithm singlehandedly decided how popular a story was, and then further promoted it as “Trending”, thereby pushing that particular snowball down the proverbial hill. The die is cast, and we unknowingly just participated in legitimising a fictional story, into a “reality” – one that could change the destiny of a nation, or of the world, simply because we propagated something and that, via our friends’ News Feed will convince them too. So the Trusted One often becomes the misinformant.

Now, multiply that by 1.86 billion (Facebook users). The world’s got a problem on it’s hand.

Slammed for it’s supposed role in promoting Fake News that supposedly swung the U.S. Presidential elections, Facebook, an American for-profit corporation needed to clear all its grounds of the slur.

So, the company now makes use of non-partisan third-party organisations to evaluate the factual accuracy of tales.
It 
has launched a much-hyped, crowdsourced Fake News crackdown initiative within the US. which allows everyday users to tag a post as “pretend information”, which is then evaluated by third-party organisations like Snopes and Politifact, for factual accuracy. 

If the fact-checkers agree that the story is deceptive, it would appear in News Feeds with a “disputed” tag, together with a hyperlink to a corresponding article explaining why it could be false. These posts then seem decrease within the information feed and customers will obtain a warning prior to sharing the story.

There’s more: News is bubbling about the addition of a new Dislike Buttonwhich will be placed in all posts, alongside the Like and Comment options.

Similar, determined efforts are being seen in parts of Europe amid the threats from the European Union to strike back hard on Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation. The social networking website recently revealed similar reality-checking partnerships in Germany and France ahead of the upcoming elections in the respective countries.

It is unclear how many individuals presently have entry to the “Fake News” debunking machinery, however we’ll know soon enough.

It is heartening to see that Facebook works so hard to fulfil it’s obligations (perceived and implied) and to ensure that mankind doesn’t suffer at the behest of some mischief mongers.

As I wind up, I must remind you, that Facebook doesn’t really bear this cross alone. You and I do too, because as we wrote earlier, we are ourselves propogating it by Liking, Sharing and Forwarding stuff without establishing it’s veracity. Worse, we’re building our own opinions without realising that we’re doing so.

So, as a friend recently advised me – “Stop headline-skimming; pause, read, reflect, and only then, contribute