There has been a great deal written in the past couple of weeks about the many fake news posts that were on Facebook, and what influence those posts may have had on the election.
Many people are trying to hold Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, responsible for controlling such posts. While I agree that Facebook could do a better job at removing some obviously fake news stories, much like it does for posts that include hate speech or criminal activity, I think the primary responsibility for controlling fake news stories rests with the original poster, as well as with people who then share such a post.
I remember during the recent Presidential campaign people would post anti-Clinton and anti-Obama stories on Facebook that just didn’t seem plausible, and within five minutes I was able to determine that those stories were indeed fake.
Why shouldn’t the person who originally posted that story, and anyone who decided to share such a post, be required to perform the same due diligence?
If the poster/sharers cannot find any factual support for the post (and referencing another fake news site does not count as factual support), then that person should be subject to a substantial fine and banned from Facebook for a time period.
I would think that a user would think twice about posting anything that may seem a little bit far-fetched, and they can’t find any evidence to back their claim, if they knew that there were significant consequences associated with posting fake news stories.
The New York Times has published a few articles recently that looks at the issues surrounding fake news stories on social media, and what responsibility, if any, Facebook’s and Twitter’s responsibility have when dealing with fake news stories.
Here are the links; I highly recommend reading them so that you can get a sense of what the issues are:
I found the last link above particularly interesting in how it steps through how a fake tweet went viral, from a Twitter user who only had 40 followers at the time of his posting. This user tweeted, the day after the election, about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory — one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting. The user posted pictures of the buses along with his tweet.
This user later noted, “I did think in the back of my mind there could be other explanations, but it just didn’t seem plausible.” He added, “I’m also a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption.”
Well if you have time to take a picture and post something like that, then you need to make time to do some basic fact-checking.
The tweet post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook, and continued to spread even after the original poster realized his mistake, and posted the words FALSE on top of the post.
Like I said, it makes for informative reading, and I highly recommend doing so.
I don’t see this problem getting any better in the years ahead unless proactive steps are made to address the problem, including enforcement of new policies and penalties for those found in violation of those policies.
*image from snopes.com