Complaints about “fake news” have been dominating much of the news cycle since Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the November 8 presidential elections. Many politicians, pundits, and rank-and-file Democrats have attributed Clinton’s defeat, at least in part, to the deluge of fake news articles that flooded social media sites in the weeks leading up to the election.
Even Clinton herself recently made a rare post-election public appearance to decry the dangers of fake news.
“This is not about politics or partisanship,” wasClinton said Thursday, according to a partial CNN transcript of her statements. “Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”
While Clinton didn’t mention the conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate by name, it was clear that the references to innocent people’s lives being at risk as they go about their day were an allusion to a man carrying a rifle into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington and threatening employees before discharging the firearm.
Comet Ping Pong is at the center of the Pizzagate conspiracy. No one was hurt in the incident, and the suspect was arrested on site.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on the social network and fake news: ‘We don’t think it swayed the election’ – TODAY https://t.co/yXmThbastO
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) December 8, 2016
Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, faced considerable heat for the fake news controversy in the days following the election. Critics felt that the popular social media network should have done more to curate the news articles posted to the site.
“Facebook has completely turbo-powered fake news sites,” Alexios Mantzarlis, director and editor of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, told Politico. “But it’s also probably the first platform that could measure how these things spread, and how we could push back.”
It didn’t end with fact-checkers complaining to other news agencies. They tried to call out Zuckerberg directly.
“Shortly after Election Day, the ‘Big Three’ in American fact checking — PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times; FactCheck.org, part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center; and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker — posted an letter to Zuckerberg calling on him to ‘start an open conversation on the principles that could underpin a more accurate news ecosystem on its News Feed,'” Politico reports.
— CNN (@CNN) December 8, 2016
Zuckerberg initially dismissed and resisted these calls to change how his site manages posts.
“I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is they saw some fake news,” Zuckerberg said at the Technonomy Conference a couple of days after the election, according to The Verge. “If you believe that, then I don’t think you have internalized the message the Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.”
He also questioned the notion that there would be fake news coming from one side of the political spectrum but not the other.
Well, he has apparently changed his tune since then.
“After his initial defense of ‘nuh-uh, wasn’t us’ fell on deaf ears, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided to do something about [fake news],” Andrew Tarantola writes in an article for Engadget. “The company has begun hitting fake news sites in the wallet, as well as scrubbing BS content through both curation and automation.”
Now if an article that you consider to possibly be fake appears in your feed, you’ll have the option of selecting “It’s a false news story” if you click on the “Report post” feature.
To do so, you simply click on the drop-down arrow at the top right corner of the post.
Then you click on the “Report post” option.
From there, you select the “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook” option and click “Continue.”
Then you are given the option of selecting “It’s a false news story,” with some explanation of what constitutes “false news” by Facebook’s standards.
After that, you are given choices of actions you can take to avoid seeing such content again, such as blocking, unfriending, or unfollowing the person who posted the article. Once you’ve completed the steps, a notice is sent to Facebook so that they can review the allegedly false news story.
It’s not a perfect system by any means, and it’s sure to raise some issues regarding the gray area of what is and isn’t fake news, but in the meantime, it will probably pacify critics who insisted that Facebook do something to crack down on so-called fake news.
[Featured Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]