Facebook’s Fake News Initiatives For India Elections Create Slippery Slope For Traditional Vs. Social Media

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As reported by The Inquisitr, Facebook announced that it is taking steps towards tackling the issue of fake news, an issue infamously tied to the 2016 United States Presidential Election. While the topic is now generally covered in detail during political campaigns in the United States and Europe, the rise of fake news during India’s 2019 election season has caused the social media company to team up with media organizations in the country to flag stories that are false.

So far the majority of the pages and sources targeted for removal have origins in the ISI, the military establishment of Pakistan, and have focused on themes such as “military fan pages” and “Kashmir community pages.”

While it has yet to be seen what impact fake news could have on the elections in India — as well as what potential efficacy Facebook’s initiatives could have in dampening them — one thing has become quite clear. In modern times, the immediacy of social media reporting has become a threat not only to the traditional trusted news outlets, but also to society’s interpretation of developing events.

This growing fear has prompted calls for more responsibility to be shown by tech giants for the information that they platform, as well as several government hearings focused on the phenomena. The question becomes not if but when stricter regulations will be enacted focusing on putting a stop to the practice; but from that point, the slippery slope arises as to what exactly is fake news and who is the arbiter of such?

With the charge of “fake news” becoming an ubiquitous accusation prior to and since the election of President Donald Trump, the definition of what truly is fake news has become muddled in a grey area since the term first arose. The president’s critics have called out what they allege are half-truths of his economic successes and the president himself has called out major news outlets that write stories that are negative or otherwise not in line with his agenda or narrative.

The issue is that an idea that should have a straightforward definition has different meanings to everyone. Politics by its definition is never black and white and information is constantly filtered through one’s political beliefs. While Trump’s critics may feel that fake news played a role in his election, it appears that the president and Republicans in power share the view that it is being used to attack him. Despite the fact that Facebook is an independent company, legal and financial threats it may face would likely play a role in what it deems fake. Is there an objective, concrete definition of fake news that will be universally accepted?

In mainstream circles, the QAnon-style conspiracies that seem to have gained a more prominent role at Trump rallies would be an ideal target, but supporters of the president may look to the traditional media’s coverage of the Mueller investigation and accuse it of pushing a conspiracy of its own. This compartmentalization of not only political thought but media and perspective consumed rose, ironically, due to the wide availability of information due to the internet and social media. Social media allows the individual to customize his or her own personal echo chamber.

At the end of the day, with Pandora’s Box metaphorically open, putting what could be termed as censorship into the hands of a private company or a partisan government runs the risk of not only giving credence to the paranoia of one side, but also driving the extremes deeper underground. While that may work on a surface level, the issues that cause people to buy into false reports would still be unaddressed and festering, likely coming back even stronger once a new social media platform rises.