In the age of social media and smartphones we are in today, it is easy for news to spread quickly, even if it isn’t true, which causes many to wonder what to believe. The creation of social media was meant to connect people and allow everyone to keep up with what is going on around the world. However, this is not always the case, recently social media has become a platform for news to be spread, even if its false.
With the recent increase in the spread of fake news, is it social media companies responsibilities to control the spread of fake news on their platforms? With the position these companies are in, they need to create or improve on the algorithms designed to stop fake news and have more humans working to stop it instead of solely relying on machines. To understand how to stop the spread of fake news it is essential that people understand exactly what it is and how it is spread. In general, fake news is false news that is believed to be true and is most commonly spread on the internet and on social media platforms. Fake news has recently been in the center of discussion after the 2016 presidential election when the president elect labeled many news outlets “fake news” when he either did not agree with them or he believed them to be false.
His actions have brought up a discussion about the spread of fake news and what companies are doing about it. Even though not all media companies can control what is initially posted or shared, they do have some control over what people can see and how things are spread on their platforms. According to the Pew Research center around two-thirds of Americans have gotten some of their news from social media. With this many people relying on social media for their news coverage the spread of fake news needs to be managed throughout media networks. Fake news can be easy to spread and some people have created algorithms called bots, which are automated accounts that can automatically post or retweet content hundreds of times per day.
These accounts are not common, and a computer scientist has “estimated that up to 15% of Twitter profiles,” which is around “50 million—are bots” (Kupferschmidt). To stop the spread of fake news on sites such as Facebook, companies have created algorithms that can somewhat fact check what is shared and spread around the most. The company has created an algorithm that is able to “flag stories that may be suspicious and send them to third-party fact checkers” (Bloomberg). They also have fact-check programs in place such as Politifact, Factchecking.
org, and ABC news. However, according to the LA Times, these programs “did not stop inaccurate reports from landing on Facebook’s Crisis Response page” (Pierson). HWhile Facebook and other companies do have algorithms in place, they need to be improved upon. The algorithms that Facebook has in place for its users automatically favor the stories that get the most likes and shares, which can increase the spread of fake news because a story can be popular even though it is not necessarily true.
In order for companies to accurately fact check content and manage the spread of fake news stories companies need more human management, because technology is not always accurate. Increasing the amount of human oversight on social media sites would increase the accuracy of fact checking algorithms because algorithms “aren’t able to replicate a humans intelligence” (Tait).Even though there is a lot of attention around the spread of fake news on FAcebook, it is not the only media platform this happened on. Recently, after the deadly Las Vegas shooting Google reportedly “promoted fake news about the attacks” from the site 4chan which “falsely accused an innocent man” of the crimes.