The proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ and its apparent ability to influence the outcome of globally important events such as the recent U.S election have meant that Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has been moved to publicly announce how Facebook intends to tackle the problem in future.
What Is Fake News?
As the name suggests, fake news involves the publishing / distribution of news that contains spurious reporting and / or varying degrees and levels of accuracy, bias and influence.
One of the key factors in the success of ‘fake news’ in influencing people is whether or not the recipient is motivated, able or has learned to successfully evaluate sources’ reliability e.g. based upon whether they’re named, independent, well-informed or authoritative. For example, a recent study by Stamford University of nearly 8,000 students (from grammar school through college) showed that 82% couldn’t distinguish between an ad labelled as sponsored content and a real news story on a website.
This could mean that the younger generations i.e. those who rely most heavily upon the use of social media, and who appear not to be adept at, willing or able to check the source of ‘news’ are therefore at risk of being influenced by all manner of ‘players’ … commercial, political and others.
Why Fake News?
The fact is that well crafted and ‘believable’ fake news is more likely to be shared, and therefore it has at least commercial value. Fake news websites can attract a lot of interest and can therefore make a lot of money through advertising.
The Challenge For Facebook.
Facebook is in the unprecedented position of having huge power and influence across the globe on how we think, act, feel, and on how / what we prefer and consume.
Recent complaints that fake news featured on Facebook during the recent U.S. presidential election may have influenced the outcome, and influenced it in a direction that many Americans perceive to be the wrong direction, have brought calls for action. Facebook also has to tread a fine line between discouraging ‘fake’ news while encouraging the sharing of a wide range of opinions.
Facebook’s Plans To Combat Fake News.
Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook have been working on the challenges for some time and that they are developing methods for stronger detection and verification as regards news distributed across the network.
Facebook is also reported to be considering providing warning labels on fake content, and finding ways to prevent fake news sites from making money through advertising on its network.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Some people, organisations and businesses clearly see Facebook’s position and power and reach as an opportunity to take advantage of human habits and vulnerabilities where the use of fake news is concerned.
There are of course many moral and ethical questions surrounding this. One advantage of being in business is that it tends to encourage you to be more aware of influence and motivations in commercial messages, and the Facebook / U.S. election dilemma should remind us all that it is important to think about and check the sources of ‘facts’ involved in information that is being used to help make important business decisions.