16 February 2017
Évangéline de Bourgoing
Hacking the Facebook news problem
News organisations and citizens need to stay constructive and keep looking for ways to make Facebook a more informative space.
Amid growing concerns about Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation and polarising its users, these last months have seen much lively debate on how this platform could reform itself. According to Frédéric Filloux, Facebook needs to keep its users on its services as long as possible to sustain its pageview-based business. It has no objective interest in exposing them to news that contradicts their beliefs and could make them leave the site. Its algorithm is built to maintain users “in the warm, comfort of the cosy environment (they) created click after click”. That might be why we should not expect too much change from within Facebook.
But Facebook being by far the dominant social media news source, we should not accept it as siloed, opaque and misleading as it is right now. News organisations and citizens need to stay constructive and keep looking for ways to make Facebook a more informative space. The following are some recent experiments.
During the US presidential election, Facebook was widely criticised for its role in spreading misinformation. Craig Silverman showed that in the final three months of the US presidential campaign, top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined. As talk about fake news has boomed, so have proposed solutions. Many of them rely on fact-checking.