Who Will Check Social Media Facts?

In the wake of the recent presidential election, there has been much discussion of “fake news” and its impact on people’s votes. Did voters elect Donald Trump president because they read a piece of “fake news” on Facebook, for instance, and decided that Hillary Clinton was unpalatable for one untrue reason or another?

That’s a pitch that Democrats are throwing out and hoping that the public buys into as they call on companies such as Facebook to do more to curb the “fake news” phenomenon that’s afflicting social networks on a global scale.

Fake news is a touchy issue for several reasons — first, because its definition is still nebulous; some people say the label only applies to stories that are 100 percent false; other people say it should apply to stories that are a mixture of truth and exaggeration whereas still others say the label could be applied to any story that has a clear slant or bias, even if the content is 100 percent true.

For Facebook, there’s a growing recognition that it serves as an outlet that some 40 percent of all Americans get their news from. Despite this, there’s still little to no external regulation of Facebook as a news source or link to accurate news authorities. Certainly, there’s none of the government oversight that traditional news organizations such as television and radio networks are subject to.

Often, many of the news stories promoted on Facebook are from website sources that were previously unheard of, such as Vox, Mic, Now This, The Other 98%, U.S. Uncut or Raw Story. What do all these sites have in common? They are all financed by or related to Democratic organizations and donors such as globalist billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations (OSF) network.

It’s true that Facebook promotes stories from other sources, including conservative and right-leaning ones, but a years-long perusal of the social media network will definitely show a clear bias toward what founder Mark Zuckerberg and other top management feel are “left-aligned” articles. , Particularly those with a progressive or liberal bent, often as regards to hot-button issues like immigration, terrorism, social justice, drug legalization, foreign policy and the environment.

Facebook claims it has replaced a team of human “news curators” with algorithms that help choose stories that are presented to viewers and filter out fake ones, but the company admits that real people are still involved in the process.

While Zuckerberg has denied that he thinks his social network had a big role in the outcome of the most recent U.S. election, he’s acknowledged that his platform still has a ways to go in terms of combatting fake news.

To this end, Facebook has said that it’s rolling out new features designed to help users flag fake news and let independent agencies vet stories. But there are several problems with this. As it turns out, the International Fact-Checking Network — the organization that drafted an accuracy code for these agencies to follow — is funded by Soros’ OSF as well as by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Omidyar Foundation (started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar), Google, the Craig Newmark Foundation (run by the founder of bare-bones website Craigslist) and the National Endowment for Democracy. All of these groups were strong supporters of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency and are aggressive promoters of progressive causes and platforms.

In addition, the third-party agencies named by Facebook to vet stories include Factcheck.org, Snopes, Politifact, ABC News and the Associated Press. These firms also have connections to Democratic donors and organizations. They’ve taken flak for vetting articles more based on opinion and nitpicking than truth-telling, leading to what some people have called bias.

For instance, in a four-month period in 2013, George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs found that Politifact rated 11 percent of claims by Democrats totally false compared to 32 percent of claims by Republicans. It also rated 11 percent of Republicans claims as totally true while giving 22 percent of Democrats’ claims the same rating.

ABC News and the Associated Press were part of the mainstream media majority that completely predicted the election incorrectly and presented Hillary Clinton in a more favorable light than Donald Trump.

Facebook will now be implementing a button to let users mark stories as fake; if the above-mentioned third-party agencies believe a story is indeed untrue, a tag will be attached to the story that will read “Disputed by third-party fact-checkers.” The publishers of these stories won’t be able to pay to promote them, and such stories will appear lower in a user’s news feed than stories that are not tagged as such.

But several questions then arise — what happens if people start tagging news stories from major news organizations as fake? Will the “Disputed” tag apply to them as well? And what about people who falsely report stories? Adam Mosseri, the vice president of product management for Facebook doesn’t believe the latter case will be an issue. These instances “happen many times less [than people would believe] — orders of magnitude less,” stated Mosseri. “Most people aren’t going to report anything negative [falsely].”

For now — in the United States at least — Facebook is not going to implement any feature that would be tantamount to censorship, even though it’s said it will do exactly that in order to be able to be declared “legal” to operate in China. “What we’re focused on is the worst of the worst [cases in America],” said Facebook’s Mosseri.

But it remains to be seen exactly how this will play out in practice; the flagging and tagging features have only been rolled in some areas of the U.S. so far.

If conservatives’ fears of a liberal slant on Facebook news appears to be well-founded, it may be time to take the suggestion of Infowars’ Alex Jones, who’s suggested that Republicans build their own social network to compete with Facebook. Doing that — or just the threat of doing it — may be enough to spur Zuckerberg’s company to balance the playing field more. As it currently stands, the field is heavily tilted toward the left, and with these new features, it seems that this trend may only be exacerbated.

~ Facts Not Memes

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