When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said his company had no impact on the recent presidential election, I almost spit coffee onto my iPad screen. Why? Except for photos and family, Facebook often seems to be more fake news than real news, and to all too many people in the good old U.S. of A., Facebook is the internet. Zuckerberg back pedaled and said something to the effect that Facebook didn’t know how much of its content was fake news, then said 99-percent was not fake news, which left 1-percent and it just got worse from there.
Did fake news– on Facebook and elsewhere– contribute to the 2016 presidential campaign? Yes. My own analysis and unscientific survey tells me that many, many voters were swayed to one candidate or the other based upon blatant lies and misrepresentations made and shared on Facebook and elsewhere.
It was so bad that I saw ads which told Hillary supporters that there was no need to go to the polls because they could vote with a text message. How does one defend a democracy against the scourge of fake news?
In the U.K. there’s a new company raising money to make fact checking as easy as a spellchecker. Obviously, Facebook and others would like to distribute only factual news instead of fake news or news with some truthiness, but the truth is, it’s not possible without a huge Big Brother contingent taking over the information universe. Facebook is a social network but when it is responsible for a large portion of the world’s daily digested content– fact or fiction– it has become more of a media company, and that’s uncharted territory.
Where does Apple play a roll?
Apple News has become one of my favorite iPhone and iPad apps (along with Flipboard) as it brings together a large and growing variety of news and information sources; somewhat curated, occasionally fact free, but far more traditional than the viral scourge that inflicts and afflicts Facebook.
Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos gets kudos (more from centrists and left leaning, than right leaning readers) for adopting The Washington Post and allowing it to continue as a haven for traditional news gathering. Apple’s News is an app whose usage is growing and helps to point readers to specific sources, but in an age where traditional news organizations struggle to carve a profitable niche among the many fake news sites which spew venomous viral vitriol to the point of treason, could Apple do more?
For example, Apple has a Junk Mail filter for the Mail app. Why not a Junk News filter for Safari? Just as spam gets a home in a lonely folder before being deleted, giving a user one last moment to check for something real or useful or worthwhile, a Junk News filter could do the same for a browser. Facebook should consider doing something similar and it’s likely such a filter could be fully automated based upon– not likes or dislikes– but a lie button on content.
I’ve long thought that the information superhighway that hit the public interwebs back in the mid-1990s has become more of a misinformation superhighway, and it’s more true today than ever. The only problem with third party entities that monitor and determine what is truth and fact versus what is obviously viral and fake, is the age old question, “Who monitors the monitors?“