Facebook Fake News: A Challenge to Media Globalization – By Ace Aceron

We have now entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution – “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” (World Economic Forum, 2016). This is captured by Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the global village, where we are all interconnected through technological inventions that affect society as a whole. According to a global media agency, “half of the world’s population is now online, which is a testament to the speed with which digital connectivity is helping to improve people’s lives” (We are Social, 2017).

Digital technology such as Facebook has revolutionized how people produce and consume media. With a simple click, it enables us to alter information and have the ability to distribute it. Yet contrary to the positive hopes of wider connectivity, the spreading of fake news on social media has become a negative result of media globalization.

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(Images from inquirer.net)

Facebook, which is a primary source of news for some people, has come under fire for displaying the fake news.  It came to prominence during the US Presidential Election, with unreliable news being shared widely all through the internet especially on social media and search engines. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, many have claimed that false news stories influenced voters.

The social networking site has been widely criticized after some users complained that they are reading fabricated news on the election. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook made a statement regarding the controversy. In a post on his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg admitted the business has a “greater responsibility” to the public than just being a tech company. He wrote:

“While we don’t write the news stories you read and share, we also recognize we’re more than just a distributor of news. We’re a new kind of platform for public discourse – and that means we have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed.”

“With any changes we make, we must fight to give all people a voice and resist the path of becoming arbiters of truth ourselves. I believe we can build a more informed community and uphold these principles.”

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(Image from forbesimg.com)

Facebook then is now trying to combat fake news. By updating its “trending” feature that highlights hot topics on the social networking site, part of its effort to root out the kind of fake news stories that critics contend helped Donald Trump become president.

The world’s largest social network said it would enable users to flag possibly false stories. The stories will then be passed to third-party fact-checkers and if found to be unreliable, will be marked in users’ news feeds as “disputed”. Readers will be able to alert Facebook to possible fake news stories, which the Facebook will then send to outside fact-checking organizations to verify.

If they confirm a story is fake, they notify Facebook through a special reporting website it exclusively built for them, and can include a link to a post debunking the article. Facebook will then show posts of those links lower in the News Feed. It will also attach a warning label noting “Disputed by [one or more of the fact checkers]” with a link to the debunking post on News Feed stories and in the status composer if users are about to share a dubious link, plus prohibit disputed stories from being turned into ads.

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(Images from techcrunch.com)

The “fake news” news created further repercussions. Although the election is over in the US, the problem of fake news isn’t. Apple CEO Tim Cook said it’s time to do something about it.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last Feb 12, 2017, Cook said that “all of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news… There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic”

Cook believes that the proliferation of fake news is “killing people’s minds.” He even called for a wider action. “Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do,” he said.“We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will.”

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(Image from gettyimages.com)

Also, last January 15, 2017, the German government officials have expressed concern that the spread of fake news and the hacking of political campaigns could influence the country’s parliamentary election this year. Facebook rolls out fake-news filtering service to Germany, making Germany to become the first country outside the US to benefit from Facebook’s crackdown on fake news. Facebook said it had been in discussions with German media and publishing groups and was working to get more partners on board.

In an article written by Jay McGregor of Forbes.com on January 16, 2017, the Facebook’s fake news solution might not be effective. According to him, Facebook pages that spread fake news and the people that share it revel in being anti-establishment. If their posts are routinely flagged with ‘disputed’ then they’ll wear that as a badge of honour. Also, people will flag real news as fake news. Armies of believers who feel slighted by Facebook’s ‘intrusion’ will likely seek revenge by flagging mainstream media articles as fake news.

There’s also the people who steadfastly believe that established media outlets are little more than puppets of the government. That’s not entirely without merit but expect people with differing opinions to CNN to flag their content as fake. Indeed, fake news has the potential not only to destroy people’s reputations but also to damage the credibility of journalism itself.

global-village

(Image from shutterstock.com)

With the degree and reach of today’s media, both the producers and consumers of online information should be mindful of their capabilities. It has been argued that the globalization of media will result in the decentralization of power and permit more bottom-up control (Wang, 2008). Though greater responsibility is expected to those in power and greater authority, consumers must also be aware that change can be effected from the grassroots.  To combat fake news, critical thinking is critical. All those who dwell in a loosely regulated digital space needs to apply critical thinking even more.

An information society requires mature readers or receivers of information, where core critical thinking skills like evaluation, interpretation and analysis must be put into practice. American journalist and literacy critic Christoper Hitchens teaches us about the role of the independent mind, that which “lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” Perhaps in a world made complex and puzzling by large-scale information and misinformation, it helps to educate ourselves not just by learning facts, but by training the mind to think and constantly rethink.

Online Sources:

The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/15/facebook-flag-fake-news-fact-check

Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaymcgregor/2017/01/16/facebooks-fake-news-solution-has-three-big-problems/#46396d095d86

Inquirer

https://technology.inquirer.net/58193/facebook-takes-aim-fake-news-new-trending-formula

https://technology.inquirer.net/57840/facebook-to-operate-fake-news-filter-in-time-for-german-elections

Recode

http://www.recode.net/2017/2/12/14591522/apple-ceo-tim-cook-tech-launch-campaign-fake-news-fact-check

We Forum

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

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4 thoughts on “Facebook Fake News: A Challenge to Media Globalization – By Ace Aceron

  1. Facebook contains a lot of fake stories, which unfortunately, are perceived as reliable news by some. This is where media literacy comes in. The inclusion of media literacy in the curriculum of Senior High Schools here in the Philippines is indeed compelling. Students should know how to evaluate news sources. Students should evaluate these sources based on these four measures: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. It is actually alarming that some people, considering that they are already adults, still believe on fake stories, and even defend themselves. I just hope that these young Senior High School students would be able to pass on their literacy to those who need it. Also, we, as communication graduate students should take an extra step in sharing our knowledge on news evaluation, for that is the essence of education, sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with the conclusion you made: “Perhaps, in a world made complex and puzzling by large-scale information and misinformation, it helps to educate ourselves not just by learning facts, but by training the mind to think and constantly rethink.” I think people should always be critical, both online and offline, and should not accept any thing at face value—but then again, sometimes, it is easier said than done. While it is good that our DepEd has included Media Literacy in high schools, like what Jeff said, there are still other stronger forces why some people fall for fake news, including our slow internet, which render people to use their free data on Facebook, which discourage them to read the entire article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you Ace when you wrote that ”information society requires mature readers or receivers of information, where core critical thinking skills like evaluation, interpretation and analysis must be put into practice. ” There are a lot of fake news spreading not only in Facebook but all over the internet it just that Facebook has the largest users in social media sphere. It is a matter of educating the mass in terms of validating news and what better way to advocate and teach it is through schools. We already have Media Literacy in Senior High school, but in my opinion its should be earlier in their educational years so the formation of habit is easier and embedded within them. As early as grade school will be a good start. In today’s generation, even 3 year old kids know how to navigate in the world wide web using a tablet or a cellphone. Even grade schoolers get their research assignment in the internet. The earlier you teach them the better, it can form a good habit that can eventually lessen deceptive power of the authorities. This is not only applicable in social media but also to information sites, like wikipedia. They need to know if the facts they are absorbing and getting are legit and true.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, Ace. It very timely to write and provide information on the issue of the ever-growing practice of producing fake news on the web especially with the established presence of digital media. The advent of digital content in new plaforms such as in social media sites obviously provides anyone to produce content of any kind whether they are of factual details or otherwise. With social media’s nature of providing access to anyone, anytime and anywhere, enables users to post freely. The fact that there are still no laws on this matter and that democracy in producing any forms of content paves way to anyone to release content that might provide deception to the general masses. Given this helpless situation, at least for the moment, what people can do is to be vigilant in terms deciphering which ones are true and which are not. Kudos on providing on raising awareness on this matter.

    Liked by 1 person

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