Facebook has announced that it will no longer flag “fake news” on its feed, drawing to an end a short and painfully ineffective experiment in guiding social media users to the “right” kind of sources for information. The social media giant, which took some heat in 2016 from liberals upset about all of the pro-Trump news that made it to the top of its official News Feed, decided to fight back this year with a measure that put hired fact-checkers in charge of flagging disputed stories. But when studies proved that these flags did nothing to stop the spread of the articles (in fact, they actually encouraged people to read them), Facebook decided to put a stop to their meddling.
This week, the tech company said that top-down efforts like their flagging experiment “may actually entrench deeply held beliefs” and encourage users to ignore the warnings and simply throw Facebook in the same fake news bag with the rest of the crooked mainstream media. Now Facebook will instead add “Related Articles” to disputed stories so that readers will have a chance to get their news from a variety of different sources. Now THAT’S using your head for something other than a pussyhat!
“Our research has shown (Related Articles is) a more effective way to help people get to the facts,” Facebook wrote. “It leads to fewer shares than when the Disputed Flag is shown.”
This is actually a measure we can get behind. Instead of having a team of biased fact-checkers out there trying to flag every article that seems more conservative than the New York Times, give users a chance to find out the truth for themselves. In fact, we love this. While the online journalism revolution has given us a chance to move beyond the tired legacy media, it has had a less-desirable effect of sending everyone into their respective “news” corners – or “echo chambers,” as the case may be. Liberals never read Breitbart and conservatives never read Shareblue, and this leads to everyone talking past each other about things that the other side has never even heard about.
So yeah, a “Related stories” option is actually a pretty good way to go. Not all users will take advantage of something like this, but there will be those who are always more interested in getting the facts than just having their own biases reflected back in their faces. Sometimes that means seeing a pro-Trump story, reading another point-of-view in the Washington Post, and realizing that there’s more to it than you thought at first. Sometimes it means seeing a story bashing the tax bill, reading another take in the National Review, and realizing that it’s not as simple as the morons at ThinkProgress make it sound.
Fake news – be it from liberal or conservative sources – is really only a problem when people swallow it without thinking twice. If we can get people in the habit of checking THEIR OWN facts and not just relying on people with an agenda to sell…we could actually save political journalism after all.