For the past few years now, social media has been taking a pounding from consumers and critics for “not doing enough” to stop the proliferation of “fake news” on various platforms. Facebook has been at the forefront of many of these stories.
As a result, Facebook has continued to roll out various tools to help give consumers more options in reporting “fake news” or responding to information that is not entirely accurate. These moves include the option for users to block content from certain people and certain pages, as well as the less-drastic choice to “snooze” a person who is being particularly annoying to the user.
Another recent development has been a banner that has started popping up beneath some stories that indicate a particular post has been confirmed by “independent fact checkers” to “contain false news” or “incorrect information.” These notices are popping up with greater frequency but, anecdotally, they don’t seem to be having much of an impact. Some users who see their content tagged with these warnings scoff, saying it’s Facebook that is biased and not their content.
Meanwhile, other users remain increasingly frustrated at what they see as the continued proliferation of “dangerous” and “false” information on social media. Some of the latest deals directly with COVID-19 information. Now, for the first time, Facebook is connecting directly with people who are sharing what the platform deems to be “hoaxes” related to the viral pandemic.
According to various media reports, Facebook is set to release a program that will “let you know if you shared or interacted with dangerous coronavirus misinformation on the site…” The program will work by sending people notices if they have “clicked on, reacted to, or commented on posts” that feature “harmful or false” information related to COVID-19. The notice will then direct users to the WHO site which has a list of debunked virus myths.
Some in the media are calling this move “one of the most aggressive efforts the social media giant has undertaken” in an effort to curb “viral falsehoods.”
Others are wondering about the potential effectiveness of this effort. This conversation is just one more iteration of the ongoing debate about the role of social media on society as well as the influence these platforms have on our discourse, politics, and social lives outside of the media environment. Weighing in on that topic, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: “One of my top priorities is making sure that you see accurate and authoritative information across all of our apps…”
That’s a tough nut to crack in an environment where immediacy is rewarded and people are coming from all perspectives and getting information from countless sources. The only thing for certain is that this move will create another conversation around these issues… and time will tell if it has any impact.