To whom much is given, much is expected. That is the dilemma that the internet has given to users, and specifically to those who use it for their main source of news. We have been supplied with great quantities of information from everything from cooking recipes, to political fact checking sites. However, with the access to great quantities of information, we have also learned that we must take responsibility for the information we take in as authentic, and information that is false. The greatest example of this can be seen with recent problems with false news sites being shared on Facebook.
Although the problem with fake news websites has existed for quite some time, the problem seemed to become more prevalent throughout the entire presidential election. Throughout the campaign season, fake news sites published hundreds of news stories that were either inaccurate or entirely false. A vast majority of these articles were posted to Facebook by individuals who thought the content was legitimate, and were hoping to use the article to prove their political standpoint. In fact, according to a study by Journailism.org, Facebook was the top source of news for millennials, which you may know is the largest generation of people currently in the U.S. The heavy usage of these websites, according to studies, may have misinformed individuals to make the political decisions that they made, regardless of the candidate they chose to vote for.
In a study conducted by BuzzFeed.com, it was discovered that fake news sites had outperformed legitimate news sites in terms of Facebook engagement, which includes likes, shares, and comments, by 1.4 million engagements. This has caused individuals to be misinformed on issues, even aside from politics, and Facebook officials have been forced to take action against the sharing of fake news sites. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-owner and CEO of Facebook, implemented tools to help eliminate the use of fake news sites, including ones that allow users to report fake news sites. Facebook is also implementing labels warning users of possible fake news sites. While these strategies may help to alleviate the issue, it has not come without some backlash.
Publishing fake news has become big business for those who create it. Websites such as The Onion and Enduring Vision have existed for years and have made their living off of published humorous news stories about public figures. It has also come into question whether or not this will contradict the 2nd Amendment, which protects the right of free speech. With these small steps made by Facebook, progress is being made to help stop the spreading of fake news. If nothing else, it has made the public more aware about the content they are reading and whether or not it is legitimate.
In the end, the big factor that will resolve this issue is whether the public becomes educated enough to know what’s true and what isn’t. What is shared on an individual’s newsfeed is determined by the owner, and it seems that in order for this problem to be resolved, the public needs to take more responsibility for the content they share. Knowledge is power, but only if the knowledge retained derives from the truth.