Facebook on Thursday announced that it is preparing to join forces with establishment-approved fact checkers to rid its site of so-called fake news reports.
The company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook intends to “resist the path of becoming arbiters of truth ourselves,” before outlining a series of initiatives that have the potential to seriously threaten alternative views on the site.
He said, via a Facebook post:
Today we’re making it easier to report hoaxes, and if many people report a story, then we’ll send it to third-party fact checking organizations. If the fact checkers agree a story is a hoax, you’ll see a flag on the story saying it has been disputed, and that story may be less likely to show up in News Feed. You’ll still be able to read and share the story, but you’ll now have more information about whether fact checkers believe it’s accurate. No one will be able to make a disputed story into an ad or promote it on our platform.
We’ve also found that if people who read an article are significantly less likely to share it than people who just read the headline, that may be a sign it’s misleading. We’re going to start incorporating this signal into News Feed ranking.
These steps will help make spreading misinformation less profitable for spammers who make money by getting more people to visit their sites. And we’re also going to crack down on spammers who masquerade as well-known news organizations.
Starting out, the company will reportedly take its ques on whether a post is false or misleading from fact checkers working for Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact.
Time will tell what this means for contrarian viewpoints on the social media site—but the outlook doesn’t look good.
Beyond pointing out blatant falsehoods, fact checking isn’t always a scientific endeavor. In mainstream newsrooms throughout the country, it’s certainly not uncommon for editors to make a judgement call on whether something within a story should be treated as a matter of fact. Sometimes they’re right—and sometimes they’re wrong. When they’re wrong too often, the market usually sorts things out as readers look for information elsewhere.
Arguably, that’s part of the reason alternative media exploded in the first place. Citizen journalists and alternative media organizations with lower operating costs have proven more agile and less beholden to sugarcoating content to please power interests than old media in many cases.
But alternative media consumers know the bargain they get with contrarian content: If something in a story sounds off, it’s a good idea to do a little more research. Most alternative reporters and columnists encourage this, partly because they have never claimed total objectivity.
Under Facebook’s plan, alternative media will likely come under harsher scrutiny than MSM outfits that do claim objectivity. And that’s a problem.
Think of it this way: Is MSM publishes content that looks like outright propaganda and alternative media points it out, guess whose story is more likely to get flagged?
This is fake news on the offense.