Facebook Under Fire for the Spread of Fake News

On Facebook, the content is not as important as its ability to engage users.

Social media is an area where ideologies are increasingly bumping up against each other. The problem that social networks face is that they have an incredible power to spread information quickly. So what happens when that information is often false and inflammatory?

Google plans to remove certain sites from its search listing  “that misrepresent, misstate or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content or the primary purpose” from their ad ecosystem. This change essentially prohibits sites with bad reputations from appearing at the top of Google’s search results. Facebook is taking similar steps to curb the presence of fake news, according to sources cited by Gizmodo.

This could raise questions relating to the impartiality of services like Google and Facebook. Facebook has most often taken the position that it is non-editorial, and that content should be served neutrally. And while this may be a good argument for the wider internet, 44 percent of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, and a good percentage of it is outright false.

There are some tools available for readers who want to verify their news content, and The Atlantic suggested that Facebook buying Snopes might help curb false news. However, because fake news appeals to audience emotion and inspires shares, it continues to proliferate and spread on social sites. Many posts with the highest engagement look the same to social algorithms: The content is not as important as its ability to engage, for better or for worse.

If social sites hope to maintain their credibility as a place for users to find news, the responsibility lies with them to ensure that there is some oversight. While removing access to ad services is one way to reduce exposure, fake and false news will still find its way into user feeds as a result of organic user engagement.

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