Google added fact checking: Facebook, its your move now

Google yesterday announced itwill introduce a fact check tag on Google News in order to displayarticles that contain factual information next to trending news items. Now its time for Facebook to take fact-checking more seriously, too.

Facebook hasstepped into the role of being todays newspaper: that is, its a single destination where a large selection of news articles are displayed to those who visit its site. Yes, they appear amidst personal photos, videos, status updates, and ads, but Facebook is still the placewhere nearly half of American adults get their news.

Facebook has a responsibility to do better, then, when it comes to informing this audience what is actually news: what is fact-checked, reported, vetted, legitimate news, as opposed to a rumor, hoax or conspiracy theory.

Its not okay that Facebook fired its news editors in an effort to appear impartial, deferring only to its algorithms to inform readers whats trending on the site. Since then, the site has repeatedly trended fake news stories, according to a Washington Post report released earlier this week.

The news organization tracked every news story that trended across four accounts during the workday from August 31 to September 22, and found that Facebook trended five stories that were either indisputably fake or profoundly inaccurate. It also regularly featured press releases, blog posts, and links to online stores, like iTunes in other words, trends that didnt point to news sites.

Facebook claimed in September that it would roll out technology that would combat fake stories in its Trending topics, but clearly that has not yet come to pass or the technology isnt up to the task at hand.

In any event, Facebook needs to do better.

Its not enough for the company to merely reduce the visibility of obvioushoaxes from its News Feednot when so much of the content that circulates on the site is posted by people your friends and family right on their profiles,which you visit directly.

Plus, the more the items are shared, the more they have the potential to go viral. And viral news becomes Trending news, whichis then presented all Facebooks users in that region.

This matters. Facebook has trended a story froma tabloid news sourcethat claimed 9/11 was an inside jobinvolving planted bombs. It ran a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly which falsely claimed she was fired. These arent mistakes: they are disinformation.

Facebook has apologized for the above, but declined to comment to The Washington Post regarding its new findings that fake news continues to be featured on the platform.

In addition, not only does Facebook fail at vetting its Trending news links, it also has no way of flagging the links that fill its site.

Outside of Trending,Facebook continues to be filled with inaccurate, poorly-sourced, or outright fake news stories, rumors and hoaxes. Maybe youre seeing less of them in the News Feed, but theres nothing to prevent a crazy friendfrom commentingon your postwith a link to a well-known hoax site, as if its news. Theres no tag or label. They get to pretend theyre sharing facts.

Meanwhile, theres no way for your to turn off commenting on your own posts, even when the discussion devolves into something akin to sexual assaultvictims are liars (to reference a recent story.)

Because perish the thought thatFacebook would turn of the one mechanism that triggers repeat visits to its site, even if that means it would rather trigger traumatic recollections on the parts of its users instead.

There is a difference between a post thats based on fact-checked articles, and a post from a website funded by an advocacy group.Theres a difference between Politifact and some guys personal blog. Facebook displaysthem both equally, though: heres a headline, a photo, some summary text.

Of course, it would be a difficult job for a company that only wants to focus on social networking and selling ads to get into the media business thats why Facebook loudly proclaims its not a media company.

Except that it is one. Its serving that role, whether it wants to or not.

Google at least has stepped up to the plate and is trying to find a solution. Now its Facebooks turn.

Facebook may have only unintentionally become a media organization, but it is one. And its doing a terrible job.

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