Fake it ‘till you make it ✔️

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The Info +: Facebook’s News Feed has recently come under fire for amplifying fake news. The accusations started when Facebook began testing a new feature called ‘Explore’, which puts news from professional sites in a separate place from user-generated content. They used Bolivia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Serbia, and Guatemala as “guinea pigs” for the Explore feed, but have since backtracked after a misinformation disaster in Slovakia.


A very misinformed Slovakia: After Facebook rolled out the experimental ‘Explore’ feature, a fake story about a Muslim man who warned of an impending terrorist attack at a Christmas market began circulating. The story caused panic in Slovakia and spread so widely that the police had to issue a statement saying the story was false. However, because the rebuttal statement was from an official site, it couldn’t be viewed on News Feed anymore. Slovakians wouldn't know that the story was fake unless they went on the Explore feed, which was so new that most users didn’t know it existed. The irony.


Facebook supporters focus on how Facebook has been fighting fake news. In December, Facebook began making changes to how they inform users of misinformation. Instead of putting a red icon with a ‘disputed’ flag on pages with sketchy info, Facebook is now going to show ‘related articles’. Their goal is to give people more context, and hopefully reduce how frequently fake articles get shared.

 

 

 

Facebook haters point to the test countries who suffered from misinformation as a sign of Facebook's neglect. In addition to Slovakia, Bolivia and other test countries said similar situations happened in their countries as well. In Cambodia, citizens are months into the experiment and the Phnom Penh Post reports that Cambodians still don’t know where to find trustworthy news on Facebook. In addition, the Explore feed caused a huge sag in views on trustworthy media sites. A major publication in Bolivia named the ‘Página Siete’ said Facebook views “plummeted”, and the website ‘Dennik N’ in Slovakia saw a 30% drop in traffic from Facebook. If only there was a 30% drop in Atlanta rush-hour traffic...


‘Explore’ing all sides
Facebook is making a valiant effort to combat misinformation, but the changes they’ve made seem to be geared toward exacerbating false info. If they want to include news, then they have a duty to make real news easy to find and fake news non-existent. They haven’t done nearly enough to ensure that users won’t be tricked by sensationalism.

 

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