We ended 2016 with fake news on Facebook as a common occurrence. We have all seen it, and we might have even accidentally clicked on it from time to time. However, 2016 is long gone and 2017 brings with it questions on what type of impact these fake news articles are having and what the solution to end them will be.
If you’re not familiar with the recent fake news hoaxes on Facebook, we’ll catch you up. In the past, fake news articles, often known as click-bait, were more of a hassle than harm. However, the issue of fake news articles and hoaxes has really come to the forefront after the US presidential elections.
Many have stated that the elections were swayed in Donald Trump’s favor due to fake new articles appearing on Facebook. During the final three months of the US elections fake news articles had more engagement on Facebook than articles from major news outlet like the New York Times and Washington Post, according to data analysis by BuzzFeed News. They estimated that nearly 8.7 million shares, reactions and comments were made on fake news articles compared to approximately 7.4 million shares, reaction and comments on major news outlet articles.
A few top ranking fake election stories include:
- “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement”
- “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS… Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News”
- “IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined”
However, a Facebook spokesman told BuzzFeed News that top stories do not reflect the overall engagement on the platform.
“There is a long tail of stories on Facebook,” the spokesman said. “It may seem like the top stories get a lot of traction, but they represent a tiny fraction of the total.”
The BuzzFeed News study surfaced after Facebook’s Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg stated on November 12 that “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
Two days after the BuzzFeed News study was released Mark Zuckerberg released further information on this topic.
“The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously.” Zuckerberg stated “Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”
In efforts to rid Facebook of fake news and hoaxes, as of December, Facebook has stated they’re working on these four key areas:
- Easier reporting: Allowing users to report a hoax will help Facebook detect fake news articles. They’re currently testing several ways to make this process as easy as possible.
- Flagging stories as disputed: Facebook has started to work with third-party fact checking organizations. If these organizations find articles to be fake, the article will be flagged to readers as disputed.
- Informed sharing: They’re currently testing the link between people who read an article without re-sharing it and misleading information within that article.
- Disrupting financial incentives for spammers: When it comes down to it, spammers with financial motives stand behind fake news on Facebook. Facebook’s answer to this is the following: “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.”
With this plan in place, hopefully we can count on seeing less fake news on Facebook in the new year and count on seeing more reliable articles from this social media platform.