This won’t end well. Facebook announced it will begin filtering what it determines to be “Fake News”.a phenomenon so prevalent it won, Politifact’s “Lie of The Year“. Now the largest social media website in the world plans to censor the information to it’s users. What could possibly go wrong?
1) It’s now easier to report “fake news”
Facebook is giving its users an option to flag a post they believe needs scrutiny. You’ll be able to click the top right corner of a post to report it as a hoax.
2) Fact-checking organizations will be arbiters
Facebook is working with outside fact-checking organizations accredited by Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network to help it determine what content is fake. They include ABC News, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes—all of which have been accused of liberal bias in the past.
“We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations,” Mosseri wrote. “If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed will also appear lower in News Feed.”
By putting these stories lower in the News Feed—the page you see when you log in—Facebook is reducing the likelihood that its users will see the content, and therefore, less likely to share it. But even in cases when they do see it, a “warning” will appear noting that the story has been disputed. These “flagged” stories can’t be promoted with an ad.
3) More scrutiny of sharing practices
Facebook collects a lot of data, and it’ll now be paying closer attention to content that is consumed by its users but not shared.
“We’ve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way,” Mosseri wrote.
The result could mean a lower ranking in Facebook’s News Feed.
4) Steps to cut off the cash flow
Facebook knows that purveyors of “fake news” are cashing in on its large base of users, so it will take steps to disrupt their financial incentives.
Mosseri explained: “On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.”
Facebook defined these sites as “spammers” that are “masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit … their sites.” Those site visits then drive up revenue from advertisers.
This move of course threatens right leaning news sites, as the quality of “news” is now going to be determined by Facebook users and employees. Facebook is a private company and can develop it’s terms of service as it sees fit, but will the users understand that Facebook will now be censoring news that has been reported or deemed “fake” by some arbitrary source? One of the announced partners is Politifact. So you can understand why it’s raising red flags everywhere.
Who are these people that will be deciding what is relevant and what is not to the largest social media site in the world? The source of information for over half the country. We don’t know that have any qualifications outside of their own individual bias.
You can imagine some sites are welcoming the news of this ability to regulate “good think”, and of course Buzzfeed is out in front of this, calling it a “Fact Checking Feature”. Buzzfeed doesn’t have to worry about their articles being deemed “Fake News” even though they’ve built their following on cat memes and Jon Stewart punch lines. So I suspect they see it as a way of just increasing market share.
The largest social network in the world is partnering with organizations that have signed on to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles to enable them to verify selected links being shared on Facebook and have those fact checks attached to the original link. This is the first time Facebook has given third parties special placement in the News Feed, which is the biggest single referrer of traffic to news websites in the United States, and a huge traffic driver in other parts of the world. This move comes after Facebook faced intense scrutiny for the spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform during the election.
“Symbolically, this is huge,” Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the ICFN, told BuzzFeed News when asked about the significance of this partnership for fact checkers.
Man your battle stations. We are headed for uncharted territory. Facebook execs went out of their way to stop Donald Trump, and failed. Expect the level of harassment and bias to increase for Conservative websites and writers. This isn’t a first amendment problem, but it does draw into question Facebook’s role in purveying news and now curating it for their users. Stay tuned… this is just the first shot over the bow.