New Facebook Update Expected July 17 will Affect Your Ability to Edit Posts–But is that the Right Answer?
In late June, Facebook announced they were taking steps to make if more difficult to edit what readers see in the “preview windows”. In reality, this ‘preview’ is all that many people actually do see.
And there is the underlying problem. Many, if not most professional “publishers”–the loose term given to anyone who posts content on the internet–make changes to the headlines and descriptions.
Why do we do this? Because we want people to click on our post. We want people to be so moved by what they see, they click it and “read all about it”–on our site, rather than the competitions.
Some publishers are really good at writing compelling copy that results in lots of people looking at their websites.
NASA runs a child-slave colony on Mars!
Photos taken by a Chinese orbiter reveal an alien settlement on the moon!
Shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrials that can control human minds are running the U.S. government!
The above are some of the headlines that have been purported as truth in the media. (Thanks to Scientific American for these.)
So what is the problem with allowing people to edit the headlines and description?
Most people just want you to click on their site, but are not intending to pass off false information. There are more nefarious types out there though whose main goal is to make you believe things that are just not true.
This isn’t anything new. As the image above shows, Fake News has been an issue for a lot longer than Facebook or the Internet. The image is a portion of an illustration of reporters with “fake news” dating to 1894 by Frederick Burr Opper
There are more examples of fake news being propagate in history in this article by Scientific American.
Now, it may be that the headline and description are merely provocative, and if you were to read the actual post it would not be ‘fake news.’ The problem is that, as we mentioned earlier, most readers don’t bother to click and read more. They actually believe the headlines and descriptions, and share that information as if it were the wisdom of the ages.
After all, if we read it online if must be true. Right? Not right? Really?
Our goal is to support publisher workflows and app functionality, while limiting malicious misrepresentations of underlying link content. As content customization evolves we continue to work closely with our partners to support the best tools for sharing links on Facebook.
Even though Facebook is attempting to clean up the information stream that they control, it is still smart to question anything that you see online. Even if it is “everywhere”–probably even more so if it is everywhere!
Facebook of course is not the only entity facing this issue. Most of the social media outlets are looking at their policies, and trying to determine how much policing they should, or want to do.
Fake News is News Worthy!
PolitiFact is actually covering Fake News as a newsworthy topic!
There’s an interesting discussion happening now about the spread of fake news on the Internet and what companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, among others, should do to stop it. That’s a healthy conversation to have, and one we hope continues in the weeks and months ahead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something now. Here at PolitiFact, we’re beefing up our coverage of fake news to help our readers better sort out fact from fiction on their social media feeds. The claims can be about anything — politics, entertainment, a fishy-sounding medical cure.
There is no 100% fool proof way to verify that what you are reading is the truth. Reading the real article and not the “cliff notes” version is a good start. Be willing to read and engage your brain. Rather than having a knee jerk reaction and sharing everything you see, pause, take a deep breath.
Let us take a little bit of responsibility for what we believe. Maybe we’re being unkind. Scientific American in their article, How Fake News Goes Viral says that maybe we’re aren’t just super gullible. It could be that we are just overwhelmed with information.
“If you live in a world where you are bombarded with junk—even if you’re good at discriminating—you’re only seeing a portion of what’s out there, so you still may share misinformation,” explains computer scientist Filippo Menczer of Indiana University Bloomington
But, even SA admits that the solution may rest on the shoulders of the readers. At least, that is what they said in February: The Ultimate Cure for the Fake News Epidemic Will Be More Skeptical Readers. Despite computer algorithms, we have to be more discerning.
And in the words of the poet Mary Ann Pietzker, ask yourself, “Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
In an example of the internet getting it wrong, this quote has been claimed, with some slight variations, to be the words of Buddha, of Sai Baba, and an ancient Arabian Proverb. No doubt there are others who have claimed the words, or attributed them to someone else entirely!
Thanks to Facebook, Scientific American, and PolitiFact for providing us with just the facts, ma’am.
Read more about Fake News on Scientific American: