If you read it on the internet, then it must be true, right? And, if you read it on social media, like Facebook or Twitter, then of course, it has to be true. Mmmm, maybe not. The truth, it seems, is taking a real beating these days.
1. in accordance with fact or reality. / “a true story”
synonyms: correct, accurate, right, verifiable, in accordance with the facts, what actually/really happened, well documented, the case; so rightly or strictly so called; genuine.
2. accurate or exact. / “it was a true depiction”
synonyms: accurate, true to life, faithful, telling it like it is, fact-based, realistic
Today, Facebook alone has something like 2 billion members — that’s a whole lot of people socializing via cyberspace. And with so many people posting what they had for breakfast and yet another selfie, folks are spending significantly more time than ever on social media sites.
With so many of us jumping on the social media bandwagon, an increasing number of people are relying on sites like Facebook for their news.
Yeah, so what does that have to do with truth?
I’m glad you asked. When we spend countless hours on social media, we begin to surf around and notice what other people post. So when your 3rd cousin in Sheboygan shares a “news” post that may read “Japan Set to Nuke North Korea,” it quickly gets shared by untold millions of people. Now of course, some will read that and think “What? I don’t buy that!” but, many will believe this story (which I just made up by the way, so it really is fake news). They’ll believe it, comment on it and send this bogus story along the misinformation highway, none the wiser that it was a fabricated story.
Facebook, feeling the pressure, has decided they need to act fast to save their reputation:
Washington – Facebook acknowledged Monday that the explosion of social media poses a potential threat to democracy, pledging to tackle the problem head-on and turn its powerful platform into a force for “good.”
The comments from the world’s biggest social network were its latest response to intense criticism for failing to stop the spread of misinformation among its two billion users — most strikingly leading up to the 2016 US election.
Samidh Chakrabarti, Civic Engagement Chief at Facebook, is quoted as saying “I’m not blind to the damage that the internet can do to even a well-functioning democracy. In 2016, we at Facebook were far too slow to recognize how bad actors were abusing our platform,” he said. “We’re working diligently to neutralize these risks now.“
“We’re as determined as ever to fight the negative influences and ensure that our platform is unquestionably a source for democratic good.” – Katie Harbath, Facebook’s head of global politics and government outreach
Facebook, Google, Twitter and other powerful companies are facing intense global scrutiny for facilitating the spread of phony news — some of it directed by Russia — ahead of the US election, the Brexit vote and other key electoral battles. Facebook admits that “Russian actors created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people in the United States over a two-year period.”
“It’s abhorrent to us that a nation-state used our platform to wage a cyberwar intended to divide society. This was a new kind of threat that we couldn’t easily predict, but we should have done better. Now we’re making up for lost time.” – Samidh Chakrabarti, Civic Engagement Chief at Facebook
In an effort to salvage its reputation, Facebook announced last week that it would let users “rank” the “trustworthiness” of news sources to help stem the flow of false news. Samidh Chakrabarti elaborated on this controversial decision, saying: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of truth, nor do we imagine this is a role the world would want for us.”
Passing the buck?
Facebook has acknowledged growing concerns over their plan to rank news organizations based on user “trust” surveys and their belief that: “the best deterrent will ultimately be a discerning public.”
Technology columnist Shelly Palmer cautioned that Facebook appeared to be equating trust and truth with what the public believes — what some call “wikiality.”
“Wikiality is Facebook’s answer to fake news, alternative facts, and truthiness,” Palmer wrote. “Facebook, the social media giant, is going to let you rank the news you think is most valuable. What could possibly go wrong?”
A whole lot…
We can assume that “fake news” is news meant to stir the pot and create controversy. If the issue is fake news being spread because people believe what they read, then how can Facebook users be expected to rate and rank which news sources are trustworthy? After all, if Facebook’s feed has been “infiltrated” with unsavory characters, both domestic and foreign, won’t we run the risk of those “actors” skewing the ratings to ensure their own bogus news is falsely classified as “trustworthy?”
It seems to me, Facebook’s hope is to shift responsibility but in doing so, they risk making the problem worse.
So what does this have to do with positivity?
A great deal, because there is a palpable tension in this country, particularly over political ideology. When we have agitators spreading false news, which does happen on both sides of the political aisle by the way, tensions rise, tempers flare and disharmony is the end result. The perpetrators of this strife are intentionally creating disharmony and that is the polar opposite of positivity.
As more people spend time on social media, they’re exposing themselves to all sorts of negative influences. If we really want to be positive thinkers and live a harmonious life, we need to either eradicate the rage-inducing bogus news, or, we need to distance ourselves from it.
Personally, I don’t get any of my news from Facebook or Twitter — I may read something, but my first thought is to go verify it with a more reputable sources. You may not like the major news outlets like CNN or Fox News, but to find the truth, sometimes it means digging deeper to substantiate the news we read on social media.
Positivity doesn’t mean we’re immune from controversy or negative influences, but it does mean being conscious of the dangers and taking steps to nullify those risks — and that means being careful not to spread false or inflammatory bogus news either.