Telling 1.9 billion users that some of the news they may come across on their feeds are fake is one thing but how Facebook gets that done is the worrying part.
Facebook has started putting a “disputed” tag on fake news, just like it said it would back in December 2016, as part of its (sort of) effort to stop the worrying spread of fake news on its platform.
Yesterday, Gizmodo and a host of other sites found the “disputed” tag in use: A story by “The Seattle Tribune” which said “Trump’s Android Device Believed To Be Source Of Recent White House Leaks” was flagged.
If you see stuff like this on your feed, it will come with a warning label, as well as links to fact-checking sites telling you why it’s not true. Curiously though, Facebook doesn’t say outright that the fake news story is straight up bogus — just that its “disputed” — no matter how ridiculous the bogus story seems.
Still, at least Facebook is finally doing something meaningful to curb its fake news problem, right? Well, sort of.
Telling 1.9 billion users that some of the news they may come across on their feeds are fake is one thing, but how Facebook gets that done is the worrying part.
Apart from the fact that the “disputed” tag makes it sound like an argument over who the better player is between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, there’s the process Facebook uses to even arrive at the “disputed” label in the first place:
- Either Facebook’s users have to report the story as bogus, or Facebook’s software has to catch something odd about it.
- Facebook will send the story to some of the organizations that have signed on to provide free fact-checking, like Snopes and Politifact.
- If two of those fact-checkers think it’s bogus, the label goes on (according to Recode).
To show just how ineffective this formula is, the Seattle Tribune story that went up on Sunday, February 26 stayed unlabeled for several days. Snopes declared it bogus on Thursday, March 2, but Politifact didn’t flag it until 4:28 pm on Friday, March 3. Imagine how many people must have digested that story already.
Plus EVERYTHING the “Seattle Tribune” publishes is not real, because it is not a real newspaper. The publication itself says it's a “news and entertainment satire web publication,” and “news articles contained within The Seattle Tribune are fictional.”
So Facebook, wyd?
It may look like this fake news issue doesn’t affect Nigeria, but that would be ignorant. There are loads and loads of fake news on Nigerian Facebook every day — and that is very dangerous. Especially in this part of the world where people are too ignorant (sorry not sorry) to fact-check anything.
The big question now is: When will Facebook start fighting fake news (which could have far reaching consequences for entire regions and countries) on its platform with the same enthusiasm (or even greater) it pursues its “internet for all” efforts?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet at me @TheFolarin.