Archive for Friday, November 18, 2016

Editorial: The Facebook problem

Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that fake news does not influence important choices is inaccurate and naive.

November 18, 2016


Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, is undoubtedly a smart guy. He just hasn’t sounded the part lately.

Facebook has faced criticism over fake news stories that circulated on the social media platform during the election. One that got particular attention is a fake account of Pope Francis supporting Donald Trump.

Zuckerberg last week blogged that it was “extremely unlikely” that phony stories changed the election outcome. He then doubled down in a speech last week, telling attendees at a tech conference: “To think it influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.”

At last count, President-elect Trump’s win in Michigan came by just more than 13,000 votes. Facebook has nearly 1.8 billion users. Facebook makes its living by convincing advertisers that it can influence millions upon millions of those users.

So, what is it, Mr. Zuckerberg? Does the content on Facebook have the power to influence or not?

Zuckerberg’s claim that fake news didn’t influence the outcome of the election “in any way” might be the craziest statement he has made on the subject, but it is not the most naive. That honor would go to this statement on Zuckerberg’s blog: “Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news.”

The idea that people want accurate news might warm the hearts of journalists, but as anyone who has staffed a newsroom knows, it is not universally true. A significant portion of readers want news that reinforces their world view. Truth is icing on the cake — tasty but not necessary.

It is not “crazy” to believe that Facebook played a major role in shaping the views that voters took with them into the ballot box. After all, it is a whole lot easier to push out falsehoods that reinforce partisan narratives than it is to develop real solutions and campaign on them.

It is worth noting that both Google and Facebook have announced efforts this week to combat fake news sites. Google will ban websites that promote fake news from using Google’s online advertising service, and Facebook has changed one of its policies related to how advertising and fake news can exist on the site, The New York Times reports.

Ultimately, changes at Facebook, while welcome and necessary, are not likely to solve this dilemma. Rather, Americans have to view their “news” feeds with a little more skepticism and spend more time researching the sources behind the headlines their friends are sharing.

Zuckerberg founded Facebook as a site to rate female students at Harvard. It was not meant to be nor has it grown to be an outlet for the sharing of credible news and information. That’s a perspective worth keeping top of mind during the next election season.


Bob Summers 1 year, 4 months ago

Any information that does not tow the Liberal line is "fake".

Zuckerberg is a congenital Liberal. He is highly sensitive. Emotionally distraught.

Why else would he create a site to check out females?

Carol Bowen 1 year, 4 months ago

Unfortunately, newspaper blogs like the Journal World's also promote false information and narrow attitudes. I do read and participate. I want to know what people are thinking, but intimidation can be extreme like a rough playground. Then, the opinions get biased. There are times I think the blogs should be shut down.

Paul Beyer 1 year, 4 months ago

I no longer use Facebook, simply because their so-called factual information is useless, there is so little it's not worth the effort to find it. Same way with any blog, I know in advance it is one person's opinion and normally there is no no factual information in it, just that person's biased opinion and usually just made up facts.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 4 months ago

I still use it, because I counter all the fake news. I'm tired of people not knowing the difference between fact and opinion. In some people's "opinion" Obama was born in Kenya, but the FACT is he was born in Hawaii. Truth is really important to me, and I just feel an obligation to keep fighting for it. Lies are bad no matter which side they come from. I know; it may be a losing battle, but I'm not about to stop. Honesty is at the top of my list important values.

Cary Ediger 1 year, 4 months ago

Facebook is not a news site... it is Social Media.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 4 months ago

So it's okay to spread lies when you are being social?

Rick Masters 1 year, 4 months ago

If you go to Facebook to get your news, the problem is you. (You might avoid The Onion as well.)

Cheryl Nelsen 1 year, 4 months ago

Opinions will always be biased. It's impossible to express an opinion without showing bias. Maybe you meant another word?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 4 months ago

There is a difference between opinions and factual information. For example, it's a fact that Trump said he could do sexual things to a woman, because he is a celebrity. It's opinion whether or not you think this is a good thing or a bad thing. It's a fact the Obama was born in the United States. You can have an opinion that you don't like him. You can have an opinion for or against the policies that he espouses, but spreading lies about him or his family is lying, not opinion.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, an opinion is bias, otherwise it would be a fact. Unfortunately, many readers cannot tell the difference. Opinion gets repeated over and over until readers believe it to be true, when the resulting message might not even reflect the original opinion.

Electronic media deprives the reader of balanced exposure to news and opinions. Readers find material they already agree with. Thus, it becomes impossible to have a conversation with readers who have different ideas that could result in a mutual and different outcome. We are always playing a stressful game of win and lose.

Calvin Anders 1 year, 4 months ago

Zuckerberg is being very stupid about all this. What he should be saying is that he runs a social media site. He should be saying that Facebook content is not meant to be journalism because there is no framework for a journalistic standard in place (and that's as it should be on a social media site). Instead, he doubles down and says "Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic". This is absolute hogwash. The smart play for Zuckerberg is to tell his users not to trust Facebook as a news source. The smart play is to tell users that if Facebook did influence the election with fake news, that it is the fault of the users for being stupid enough to believe what they read on social media.

Bob Summers 1 year, 4 months ago

As if the Liberal media is factual? NBC? CBS? ABC? CNN? FOX?

Rick Masters 1 year, 4 months ago

Highlights for Children. Cat Fancy. Swiss Colony. The usual suspects.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 4 months ago

Oh yeah. That radical Highlights for Children. They teach cooperation and kindness. Can't have any of that. Those values are too liberal.

Barb Gordon 1 year, 4 months ago

I love that he's now listing FOX as part of the "liberal media." That's how far outside of normal we've now gone, folks.

Calvin Anders 1 year, 4 months ago

Bob, I'm not going to argue that NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN or FOX are great sources for objective news coverage. I will argue that most of these are better sources for news than a link your uncle sent you on Facebook. But my point is not to argue about what is or is not a reliable source (we are getting pretty thin on credible sources). My point is that Zuckerberg is being really dumb in trying to claim that Facebook is (or should even aspire to be) a trustworthy news source. He should be arguing that by it's very nature, social media is a poor source of reliable, well researched and corroborated journalism. Social media is a platform for the exchange of ideas. One can become aware of an issue or even get someone's side of a story, but distrust of the claims should be automatic. Zuckerberg should be bragging about how biased and potentially misleading his site is. That means it's serving it's purpose. But he should also be admonishing users that Facebook is, by design, bad at objectivity.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

When someone reads something the next stop might be google in an effort to research what was said just in case the claim can be substantiated or proven to be false.

Why misinformation is allowed to go to print is disturbing.

Bob Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

The same spotty gits who got their news from Jon Stewart now get their news from Facebook.

Calvin Anders 1 year, 3 months ago

But the difference is Jon Steward was always adamant that he was NOT doing news. Steward on the Daily Show and Colbert on the Colbert Report were doing commentary and satire. Some people did rely on them to be informed, but to Stewart's and Colbert's credit, they always tired hard to make it clear that they were not in the news business. News media was, by their own claim, the primary target of their satire. And they were rarely serious, except in their criticism of the death of objective methods in journalism. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is claiming to be the new Edward R Murrow. Zuckerberg is courting the "spotty gits", telling them that they are right to view Facebook as a definitive news source.

Bob Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

Stewart was alway nudge, nudge, wink, wink about not doing "news".

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