Sunday, 11 December 2016

Is it time to abandon Facebook?

We’ve all heard about “fake news” and how it now pervades our daily life.

What we are not always aware of is how social media sites like Facebook aggregate the news to focus on what our browsing history tells it we may like and, how it indiscriminately serves up these fake sites as genuine news in the feeds it presents online.

Fake news sites are not satire or comedy - they have been deliberately created to sway public opinion and voted intention.

As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 2 December  2016:

Here's the thing: Facebook is using an algorithm to provide you "news" that it thinks you want to see. So, if Facebook has identified you as someone who supports Trump, it will pump in things like this deceptively-edited clip that you will, almost certainly, take as gospel truth. You likely won't dig deeper into the story to make sure that the clip is legit; it affirms your view that Obama and Democrats are bad and are encouraging illegal behaviour and, therefore, requires no checking.  It's literally too good to check.

This creates a dangerous echo chamber during periods of social or political unrest and even during run-of-the-mill election campaigns.

The mainstream media – now bereft of the financial and journalistic manpower resources in had in former times to explore or fully investigate issues often becomes part of that echo chamber.

Thus we find the likes of Anthony John Abbott and Donald John Trump (who were either enthusiastically promoted in the media or not critically evaluated sufficiently) elected to the most powerful positions in their respective countries.

I have to honestly say that in my opinion Facebook since its inception has been the worst offender when it comes to promoting extreme right-wing or downright fascist politicians, falsely labelled lobby groups and fake news sites.

To date Facebook’s alleged response to public criticism of its news algorithm has been less than effective.

I suggest that Australian readers of online news who wish to keep abreast of genuine domestic and international news reports avoid Facebook until Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates he is serious about delivering legitimate news on his social media platform.

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