Facebook has recently responded to the surge of fake news circulating on its pages. The algorithms that populate the platform have been changed to downgrade false news and clickbait.
Pages that have previously spread fake stories and ask for ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ will now be given a lower ranking by the social media site. It is hoped that the new formula will result in less fake stories in user’s news feeds. Read the changes Facebook have made in their blog post here.
Facebook received criticism recently regarding the level of fake news that appeared during the US presidential election and whether this had an effect on the election’s outcome. This event has brought the popularity of fake news to the fore.
The amount of negative stories in the press regarding this topic has been high and corresponded with a rise in fake news across the globe. Read more about false news issues around the world in this Guardian article that highlights how quickly and far it has spread.
It’s a real hot topic at the moment. Channel 4 are devoting a whole week of programming to examining the fake news phenomenon. The aim is to give an insight into the post-truth world. Have a look at Channel 4’s schedule from 6 February here.
Taking action against fake news is an important step for Facebook to manage and maintain it’s reputation as a credible social media site. Facebook has recognised that the high levels of fake news undermines their ‘news feed values’ especially their commitment to ‘authentic communication’.
Facebook is wise to respond to this and manage it’s public relations by stepping up to try and tackle the issue in a responsible way. The BBC’s Newsbeat has a great article on Facebook called ‘How Facebook is starting to tackle fake news in your news feed’ that helps to explain their efforts.
From a PR perspective, there are multiple issues here to manage. The most concerning is the break down in the communication of news, a pillar of the public relations industry. Stories that aren’t real are being believed and people are increasingly using social media as a news source. If the readers have an activist mentality and act on incorrect information the ramifications could be vast and cause un-provoked tension or worse.
I can’t help but wonder where the legislation and regulation is? Who is responsible for fact checking? Is it the responsibility of sites like Facebook, the writer or is it the person who posts or shares?
Journalists have specific training and a code of conduct to adhere to, but ‘citizen journalists’ who write or share content online are not regulated in any way.
Fake news has brought attention to the lack of regulation on social media around the world. I think it’s only a matter of time until some sort of legislation or code of conduct similar to that of a journalist is created. People that cannot distinguish fake news from the real thing do need a safety net to protect them or to help them determine the facts.
What do you think? Can legislation work without preventing freedom of speech? Have you fallen for a fake news story? Should the people producing fake news be held accountable? Can you think of a way of tackling this issue responsibly? Are you critical of new on social media?