This has not been a good week for Facebook. We have seen exposés from publications like Buzzfeed News where they found out that websites who were peddling fake news about the US election generated more shares than the traditional reputable media. An owner of one of the publishers that publish fake news on Facebook told Washington Post that he makes a million shillings a month from the racket.
This is a big problem for Facebook. Facebook has grown to be a social network of over 1.7 billion users, and for many people out there, it is their ‘entire web’ so to speak. In this age of digital media, you cannot understate the importance of Facebook as it has the reach and the News Feed that feeds its populace with information that suits them.
So when we see a situation where people take fake stories as the truth on Facebook, it becomes a worrying trend that needs to be curtailed as soon as possible.
Mark Zuckerberg decided to tackle on this issue by posting a statement on his Page where he outlined 7 steps his company will take in tackling the fake news problem:
- Having better technical systems to detect misinformation.
- Third party verification.
- Disrupting fake news economics.
- Listening to journalists or others in the industry.
- Making it easy for people to report fake stories.
- Labelling stories that have been flagged as false.
- Improving the quality of related articles.
It is paramount for Facebook to tackle this fake stories fast because it will hurt the company in a big way. Although the company does not explicitly say that they are a ‘media company’, but the action of fake news going viral on their platform will damage its credibility, which in turn will hurt its financials and could stifle its growth.
They should also stem the growth of fake news on Facebook to prevent a huge spillover scenario on their other assets (Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.) By making significant changes on their main social network, Facebook will be able to push such changes to its other social networks so as to maintain the credibility.
This also comes at a time when there will be a number of general elections that are slated to be held next year (Kenya, France, New Zealand, Germany, Rwanda, Netherlands and many more). The fake news effect Facebook had on the US election was documented and it would reflect badly on the company for being responsible for promoting the growth of misinformation on their site.
It is commendable Zuckerberg took responsibility and set the way forward to deal with this mess. “We understand how important the issue is for our community,” he says on the post, “and we are committed to getting this right.”