Facebook’s crack team fake new police certainly have their work cut out for them.
In response to claims the social media giant was basically to blame for Donald Trump’s victory, Facebook has created a system for flagging news as fake. First (and most problematically) they will allow users to flag fake news. Then a team of fact checkers from Snopes, Politifact, ABC News and FactCheck.org (many of whom displayed moments of liberal bias in the past) will verify the article and, if fake, give it the Scarlett letter. Users will be warned that “independent fact-checkers have disputed its accuracy” and will be offered a link to a corresponding article explaining why.
There are many potential problems that can occur with this crackdown. For one, supposedly objective fact-checking organizations like Politifact have displayed a liberal bias for the truth. Take, for example, the one time they gave Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump different scores on the “Truth Meter” for essentially saying the same thing.
Facebook has been accused before of internal bias against conservatives. A Gizmodo scoop revealed that its trending news team would routinely burry trending topics and news from right-wing media outlets. It prompted an uproar among conservatives. Facebook had said it favors “credible” sources, but not one brand of politics over another.
Then there’s the “flagging wars,” which have been increasingly difficult to deal with for social media sites. Users on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube will flag content as inappropriate or as hate speech not because it meets the criteria, but because they disagree with it. Liberals will flag conservative content, and conservatives will flag liberal content.
Facebook already showed they were incredibly inept at dealing with mass flagging, often shutting down groups and community pages of socialists, libertarians and Trump supporters. The website is already one of the most censorious of social media sites, and there is no reason to expect they will be any better at dealing with the inevitable flagging war surrounding “fake news.”
And fake news is already becoming akin to a meme. Both sides of the political spectrum are essentially using the term to slander each other and their viewpoints. Even conspiracy king Alex Jones has adopted the term to refer to the “lies” of the mainstream media.
Just look at CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis say the use of fake news should be expanded to include “propaganda” without realizing that any news written with an opinionated voice could be given the label.
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) December 15, 2016
It’s like that psychological phenomena when you repeat a word again and again until it completely loses all meaning. Fake news has been uttered to death by the media and practically means nothing anymore.
Of course, Facebook aims to target the “bad” kind of fake news, the “Obama turned the frogs gay with fluoridated water” kind. But with the ever-expanding definition of an increasingly meaningless term policed by dubiously objective fact checkers, how can we ever trust Facebook to get it right?