Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg posted about a new Facebook policy to help prevent hoaxes and misinformation from taking over his social media platform. In it, he detailed what steps Facebook is taking to prevent the rampant sharing of misinformation that has become commonplace, resulting in a very lucrative cash flow for writers and websites who pretty much just make shit up all day.
…Today we’re making it easier to report hoaxes, and if many people report a story, then we’ll send it to third-party fact checking organizations. If the fact checkers agree a story is a hoax, you’ll see a flag on the story saying it has been disputed, and that story may be less likely to show up in News Feed. You’ll still be able to read and share the story, but you’ll now have more information about whether fact checkers believe it’s accurate. No one will be able to make a disputed story into an ad or promote it on our platform.
We’ve also found that if people who read an article are significantly less likely to share it than people who just read the headline, that may be a sign it’s misleading. We’re going to start incorporating this signal into News Feed ranking.
These steps will help make spreading misinformation less profitable for spammers who make money by getting more people to visit their sites. And we’re also going to crack down on spammers who masquerade as well-known news organizations.
Is it too little too late? For Trump-loathers like me, yeah, a bit. A policy like this could have been great over the past year, suppressing the popularity of fake news stories written by professional hoaxers like Paul Horner. Horner could be right when he admits he was one of the people responsible for Donald Trump winning the election last month.
While Facebook is doing what they can to inhibit the virality of hoaxes on their platform, every single user should be doing the same. If the election of a narcissistic idiot isn’t evidence enough that misinformation is damaging to the future of our nation, then you’re part of the problem. So before sharing an article on social media, I suggest you do the following:
- Read it. So many articles are shared before reading. It may very well be that the article you’re sharing is satire (without you realizing it), an easily discounted hoax (once you read it), or so old it’s no longer relevant. Just applying your own critical thinking skills to what you’re reading in the body of an article will often identify red flags and cause you to justifiably label it as bullshit.
- Fact-check it. This is much easier than you think. Google it. If the topic only exists on third-party “news sites” you’ve never heard of, or only on sites loaded with huge clickbait ads, chances are it’s not true. Run it through a fact-checking website like snopes.com, or, if you’ve bought into the “Snopes is a tool of the left and can’t be trusted” nonsense, then check out any of the sites listed here.
- Add your own commentary. Don’t just share the link and let it speak for itself. We’ve become a society of instant gratification and impatience. As a result, most people only read the headline unless you spoon feed them more than that. So point out what you feel is most important about the article you’re sharing by including your thoughts on it or at least a quote from the body of it. Just sharing a headline doesn’t do much for actual discussion. And in some Facebook groups, it’s grounds for removal.
- [BONUS] Call people out. Ok, this isn’t a tip about sharing, but it’s a call to action to prevent misinformation from spreading. If you have a friend who clearly isn’t following these rules, call them to task. Chances are, your comment calling them out will be seen by many who read the headline and would have otherwise believed it, had it not been for you shedding some light. And the public shame you’ve doled out may make your friend think twice before he or she shares something again without researching it first. I do this quite often and have lost a couple Facebook friends because if it. I don’t feel bad about that, because I’ve also been successful in getting people to take down fake news articles. You win some, you lose some.
Remember kids, only YOU can prevent Trumpster fires.