The fake news problem goes all the way to the top (unsurprisingly), as Facebook casually admitted in a whitepaper that their social network is fertile ground for “subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people.”
Jesus. Remember when Facebook said they were going to crack down on rise of misinformation, with the CEO saying he was “quite proud of the impact” his service has on the civic discourse? Well, this is a very different Facebook to that one…
If the paper itself is a bit of a TL;DR affair, allow me to present the key points. This study concludes what we (along with thousands of Russian teens and the alt-right citizens of USA) have known for a while – social networks can be played like a finely-tuned fiddle.
This is especially dangerous when you see that 66% of Facebook’s American users get their news exclusively from the social network.
After this, the paper is a bit of a dance through this dystopian future that Facebook has accidentally created with the tools they’ve introduced. One account shares the propaganda and, like a well-tuned machine, hundreds of thousands of fake accounts like, comment and share the posts and artificially inflate the visibility of the content. Naturally, at this point, real humans are easily persuaded to share the content (hello Harry Potter GO).
In Facebook’s own words “Well-executed information operations have the potential to gain influence organically, through authentic channels and networks, even if they originate from inauthentic sources, such as fake accounts.”
…They can pat themselves on the backs all they want for the action taken recently against 30,000 accounts in France, but this is a terrifying admission and one we should all take seriously.
We can all try to trivialise this as people in dark corners making politicised memes, but this is more than that. In every high profile conversation, there will be a piece of fake news shared amongst it. Do not fall for it. Research outside of Facebook, as the truth is actually somewhere other than your own news feed.
So what’s the fix from Facebook? Well, they tried automated story analysis, which led to a trending section that could be easily manipulated. And their only resolution at the moment is to be “transparent” about their approach, while really presenting little-to-no transparency at all.
And the kicker of this report – it spends thirteen pages denying its impact on the US election…in a whitepaper that admits the exploitation of its network. “The reach of known operations during the US election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues,” the paper reads.
Shit. You know you did it, so please don’t be so overtly fake.
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I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.