Facebook has begun cracking down on hoaxes and fake content by doing more to alert people to the possibility that a post contains false information. According to Facebook’s news release on the subject, the information they’re looking to crack down on includes “like bait,” “click bait,” and fake or misleading news stories.
“Like bait” is anything that asks people to click “like” or “share,” or to comment. “Click bait” is not necessarily headlines, but rather, it’s posts that say things like, “Click here to win…” As far as fake news stories, stories that include scams or misleading information fall under their crackdown, also. Facebook specifically said that they won’t be removing such stories, but they will add a tag to the story saying:
Many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information.
What does that mean for sites like Fox “News?” It could mean that their reach gets reduced, but it’s Fox “News.” They don’t rely too heavily on Facebook for their audience. For some unholy reason, lots of people think of Fox “News” as truthful, despite the number of times other news sources (including “If You Only News”) have pointed out blatant lies and misinformation in their stories. It’s not clear how something like this would affect Fox “News,” but some commenters on NPR’s article about this topic clearly hope that it means no more Fox “News” in their feeds.
What does that mean for political sites, both liberal and conservative?
It could bring the trolls out in force to report news stories as fake or misleading, just because they can. With that tag on the tops of posts, especially if lots of posts from a single site carry that tag, it could bring down the perceived credibility of left-leaning sites such as If You Only News, Addicting Info, The Raw Story, Liberal America, Talking Points Memo, Media Matters for America and ThinkProgress because conservative trolls love targeting these sites for supposedly reporting misleading and or offensive (to them, anyway…probably because the truth hurts) information.
Of course, that could also happen to right-leaning sites, like Independent Journal Review, Young Conservatives, The Blaze, The Daily Caller et al for the same reasons. These things go both ways, and that’s the problem with Facebook’s policy.
Political “troll” groups on both sides already have the power to hurt the reach of a Facebook page simply by mass reporting and hiding posts. Without a review process, the trolls have even more leverage to destroy pages they don’t like.
Facebook has not said how many reports a particular story must have to start carrying the tag. Their news release simply says that after a story receives “lots of reports,” it could start carrying that tag on top. Enough reports will also hurt the reach of pages and people who post, and repost, such stories.
According to NPR, satire shouldn’t be affected at all because people don’t tend to report stories that come from known satire sites. So, The Borowitz Report, The Onion, The Daily Currant, Freewood Post, and other satire publications should be just fine.
Some other good news is that it’s very possible this change will reduce the number of times we see the so-called “Facebook Privacy Notice” in our news feeds.
Fox hosts montage featured image courtesy of Leah Farley