This month Facebook announced several big changes, among them was the announcement that the social media platform would start to allow users to rank the credibility of news they see posted on Facebook.
Part of the logic is that this would help stamp out fake news and disinformation. But it could also quash some important, legitimate news from getting out there.
For instance, someone who leans Republican may claim a story or organization that is negative toward the Trump administration is not credible, just as a Democrat may claim a negative Hillary Clinton story is fake news.
Likewise, those who lean conservative or progressive are going to like articles and better rank articles written by a progressive or conservative group, regardless of the facts behind them.
In a post, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wrote, “There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today … We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”
But Facebook users’ opinions are part of the problem. We are all so used to “liking” or otherwise reacting to stories and comments, that many people are not going to take the time to read to see if a news story is truly credible or not.
We see it all the time in Facebook comments. After a story is posted, they make a comment or ask a question that would have been answered if they had only read part of the story.
Earlier this month, our editorial board advocated for more classes teaching media literacy skills, skills such as critical thinking and fact-checking, which can help defeat the spread of fake news.
Think about it: how did the fake news during the presidential campaign spread? It spread because people shared it and “liked” it. If people would have taken an extra five minutes to do a quick fact-check before sharing the meritless stories, the stories wouldn’t have spread and this new “credible news” button wouldn’t even be under discussion.
Besides concern that results could be biased, this change could also hurt smaller media outlets in big markets. Small media outlets in many cases have broken big stories, but if say a small New York City news outlet doesn’t get as good of a ranking as the New York Times, that could affect how their news is spread.
While the concept of helping educate the public and preventing the spread of fake news is good, media literacy is really the way to go. Facebook has a lot of power, but this new strategy doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem. If Facebook users don’t trust a news source then more than likely they are not going to follow or like that news source. They are already voicing their opinions.