Facebook has announced their solution: outsourcing content decisions to legacy media “fact-checking” organizations
According to Eugene Kiely, director of Factcheck.org, after Facebook alerts them of potentially fake news, the fact-checkers will send back a link to a story that debunks it, if applicable. Facebook will then append the questionable content with a notice that reads “Disputed by 3rd Party Fact-Checkers,” with an option to read more about why that specific post was flagged. If users try to share the post anyway, they’ll be met with an interstitial that again reminds them that third-party fact checkers dismissed it, and a further note that reads,
“Before you share this story, you might want to know that independent fact-checkers disputed its accuracy.”
Taken at face value, this “fake news” fix is useless. The same people who flock to read fake news out of a desire to defy the despised Mainstream Media will now go ahead and click on stories flagged as “disputed” out of an urge to defy Facebook and Factcheck.org.
An overview of studies on the fake news phenomenon indicates that Facebook’s critics have it completely backward. People don’t form their political preferences by reading fake news, they seek out fake news to support their political preferences. That goes for both sides, mind you, but given the organizations Facebook has tapped to deal with this issue, I have a feeling that in the new system, one side is going be flagged way more often.
Yet for readers of those stories, gaining the official disapproval of Facebook is going to be like being “banned in Boston.” For the right audience, it’s a selling point: “Read the news Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want you to hear!”
The decision to defer to the supposed authority of mainstream media “fact checkers” indicates an even wider agenda. The old mainstream “legacy media” is trying to use the hysteria over fake news as an opportunity to reconstitute its old role as the gatekeeper that controlled what news you saw, heard, and read—and collected a lucrative toll along the way.
It’s important to remember how a lot of these “fact check” sites came into existence. They were a kind of marketing gimmick by the old “legacy media”—the big newspapers and the big three broadcast networks—in an attempt to reassert their fading influence. As more people started getting news and commentary from talk radio, from cable television, and then from blogs and upstart websites, the legacy media began to lose their role of gatekeeper. That’s when they set up “fact check” sites where they put themselves forward as the final arbiter of everybody else’s claims.
But this was just a palliative. It made them feel better, which is to say that it made them feel superior, but it didn’t bring back the audience, or the ad revenues.
Now the legacy media sees its chance to get revenge on digital media, and more to the point, to harness digital media as their new servants. They’re framing up Facebook in the hope that the social media giant will be so eager to show they’re on the correct side that they will invite the legacy media “fact checkers” to be the official gatekeepers of digital media. And it’s working.
- There are no financial arrangements between Facebook and the fact-checkers, or arrangements that would otherwise benefit the groups. How are they going to take on the job of policing the entirety of Facebook if they’re not getting paid for it?
- The legacy media on retainer, to hand over some of its billions and give them favored access to Facebook’s audience.
Fake news is an existential threat to Facebook’s reputation. The only solution: partner with legacy media to curate real news and reward them for it. In other words: give us back the power and money we lost. Make us the gatekeepers and toll collectors again. It’s a shakedown. The old media is coming to their store and breaking windows.
Because the legacy media’s business models aren’t sustainable. Hence the…
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