Last week we reported that Facebook would reduce the number of ads and news that appear on users’ newsfeed. The idea was to ensure that users make more meaningful social interactions as well as reduce the spread of fake news on the platform.
Now Zuckerberg has introduced some new measures to tackle fake news. Facebook will let its users determine what news sources are trustworthy and which ones aren’t. It believes that by asking its users what sources they read and trust, it would help the platform to determine what sources are more trustworthy.
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg explained that Facebook could make the decision on trusted sources itself, but said “that’s not something we’re comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would not solve the objectivity problem. We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”
Facebook would use its ongoing quality surveys to engage users on what sources they considered trustworthy. It would begin testing this method this week.
Can Facebook Trust Its Users?
This new approach by Facebook comes as a huge surprise, especially with what has happened in the last two years.
With all we’ve seen in the last two years, nobody can fault it: Facebook users cannot be relied on to share trust-worthy news. Facebook users are too eager to share both reliable and unreliable news without verifying the source. The fact that an information appears on the internet is, for many, reason enough to share it without verification on Whatsapp contacts, Facebook groups, and other platforms.
Facebook users are human like everyone else. They are capable of thinking sensibly as they are capable of being sentimental. And with the high level of polarisation and division in the world today, people are bound to share what supports their beliefs. And this was the main reason why fake news went viral in the first place.
Worse still, a lot of people these days are ignorant about journalism and how the media works. For instance, most Nigerians get their daily news updates from sources like Linda Ikeji and Naijaloaded. It’s not that these mediums are bad; they just do not give priority to filtering stories or writing ethically. In sum, these sources are deemed highly untrustworthy by industry watchers.
Facebook’s preference for this approach only shows that they are unwillingly or have run out of good ideas to tackle the issue of fake news. And admittedly, that issue is not going to be easy to fix. But, there is little optimism that this new measure by Facebook comes close to solving the problem.
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