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Fake news...the term itself is enough to elicit powerful emotions from whoever is reading an article. There is so much distrust and misinformation on the Internet these days that people can't make heads or tails of current events. Today we are going to be taking a closer look at Facebook and its plan to quell fake news debacles, but first I must offer a disclaimer: this analysis does not take a political stance.
Rather, I want to look at the fake news update from the perspective of a small to medium-sized business and adopt the perspective of a digital marketer. Why? Because it matters to your social media marketing strategy. Plus, it cannot be denied that people are more skeptical of information today than ever before. As digital marketers, we have to work that much harder to earn the trust of our audience, and it is infinitely easier to lose their trust than it is to gain it.
And, I have to admit, not all news is necessarily political. There is plenty of news that is industry specific and related to business. It is fairly common for businesses to voice their opinions or inform their audience of the latest industry developments. If you have ever posted a news-type article on your blog, then you need to be aware of Facebook's latest changes.
Why Did Facebook Roll Out the New Update?
If you were not already aware, Facebook has been under heavy fire from a variety of sources, including the general public, the government, talking heads, and many other organizations. Many have criticized Facebook as only providing an “echo chamber,” and due to political controversy, has taken a lot of heat due to recent misinformation that could sway people's understanding of current events.
In fact, there have been organizations outside the United States that intentionally inject fake news into US citizens' Facebook feeds to muddy the waters. There have even been instances of US citizens purposely making fake news as a means to their own ends, be it a politically motivated goal or a way to incite fear to get people to purchase products. And finally, there is the good ol' Internet trolls and jokers who just think it is funny to mislead people.
Even though some of them are so ludicrous you can't help but laugh (such as the KFC mutant chicken hoax), misinformation can be damaging to society. But as far as Facebook is concerned, it can also be detrimental to the success of the social media platforms. The new update aims to cut down on misinformation and stymie hoaxes. Facebook posted that it is doing three main things to thwart misinformation, as follows:
- Inhibit the financial incentives that motivate false news creators.
- Create new technology that helps mitigate the prevalence of fake news.
- Help people make better-informed decisions.
That all sounds well and good, but I am curious to see how effective the latest update will be. Furthermore, I am curious to see what other tools Facebook will implement in the future. I doubt that this will be the last update the Facebook unleashes to stop hoaxes, trolls, scam artists, and charlatans. They have existed since the dawn of the Internet, and will likely persist for years to come.
There has been some exciting speculation that special AI systems will be able to track and identify trolls and accounts specifically designed to mislead people. But most people have fearful doubts about general AI. Still, this seems to be an exciting step in the right direction.
Given the recent Facebook crackdown on false information, web marketers need to be extra careful concerning what content they engage with on their social media accounts. Some lax small businesses may, every now and then, share another piece of content that populated their news feed. Doing so isn't all that uncommon because it allows a marketer to inform their audience of breaking industry news without having to instantaneously draft content in response to current events.
However, you need to be more careful now than ever before. We do know that Facebook is cracking down on the fake news in the immediate future, but they may ratchet down on hucksters even more in the future. Not only would sharing a fake news content erode credibility and trust with your audience, but it also perpetuates false claims. Oh, and it isn't going to do your marketing campaign any favors, either.
If you get flagged too many times, you could lose the ability to purchase Facebook ads. Facebook isn't only trying to discourage those that post false information; it is also trying to stop false information from spreading like wildfire.
Right now, it doesn't seem that Facebook is too heavy-handed when it comes to making judgments regarding whether or not a website shares the fake news. Unless you are a diabolical content producer with malicious intentions, I think it is doubtful that you will end up getting flagged by Facebook. But because we don't know exactly how all the proprietary Facebook code works, it is better to err on the side of caution.
It is more important now than ever – regardless of the update – to check your facts, cite and link to your sources, and publish accurate content. Also, if someone genuinely questions the validity of your content, I would recommend responding with links to your sources. If on the other hand, you seem to be dealing with a troll, you will just have to use good judgment.
Before you click the “share” button on Facebook, make sure you scrutinize the information that you are sharing. If you get duped into sharing false news stories every now and then, it doesn't seem that any negative consequences will arise. However, if you repeatedly get tricked or share misinformation without doing your homework, your account could be banned from Facebook advertising.