Facebook vs. Fake News

By Peter Bloch

The so-called “Fake News” epidemic is a big problem these days. But if you’re a website, and your link appears in people’s social media feed causing them flock to your site where you can profit over their views, why would you stop?

With the recent news about the Las Vegas shooting on everyone’s mind, reports have been getting out of hand. The unfortunate truth is that massive catastrophes are where news sites make their profit (don’t worry, we don’t monetize our site), and for fake news sites especially, it can be a massive payday. When every site claims to have the scoop on “The secret life of the Las Vegas gunman,” people don’t always know where to turn for the truth.

Sometimes “clickbaiting” (falsely advertising a webpage to generate viewership), can cause an internet sensation. For example, prominent news network CNN recently released a youtube video entitled “Here’s why gun stocks rise after mass shootings”. The video is only ten seconds long with an entirely black screen except for the name of the news anchor responsible. But this video, based on the title alone, has risen to #49 on the trending section for all of Youtube, leading to massive views, and in turn, lots of advertisement revenue.

Recently, Facebook has made an attempt to suppress this issue for its users. For each news story, they are including an additional information button, which allows users to read a short blurb about the news source including how long they have been publishing, what they write, and a link to their website. But does it work?

In scouring the Facebook help pages, it seems this hasn’t worked so far. Ironically, I’ve found one of the Facebook support team members attempting to walk people through clicking a “Report Fake News” button on Facebook, a feature that has not yet been made public (unbeknownst to her apparently…oops).

So even after all this fuss, the issue will still go on unresolved. So where is the real news? Well, the answer is unknown for the time being. I guess you’ll just have to stick to some trusty reporting by our top-notch journalists here on The Dig for a little while longer…