With the left obsessed with the idea that “fake news” helped Donald Trump win the presidency, Facebook is promising a cure that could prove worse than disease. Why not face the real problem: the way social media encourage people to e-huddle only with like-minded folks?
Facebook will let users flag posts as possible hoaxes for four reasons: “It’s annoying or not interesting,” “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook,” “It’s spam” and “I think it’s a fake news story.” Users can then message (or block) whoever posted it, or report the post.
In the last case, outside fact-checkers are to rule on its veracity; if they agree it’s fake, the poster gets “pushed down” the news feed — meaning fewer others will see anything he or she puts up — and become ineligible for paid promotion (wherein you pay Facebook to stick your stuff in others’ feeds).
For this, Facebook will rely on groups that have signed the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Code of Principles. But Poynter so far has no enforcement mechanism.
Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?
Note that some of these groups disagree on particular calls — left-leaning PolitiFact, for one, is prone to mark as “false” things that in fact are intrinsically questions of opinion. Shouldn’t “fake news” mean clear fabrications?
Don’t get us wrong: Real fact-checkers are an extremely valuable resource —, in particular. But empowering any central board of authorities misses the real, pro-free-speech solution: The answer to “bad” speech, whether it’s lies or hate, is more speech to counter it.
The real problem here goes far beyond Facebook: It’s the modern tendency for people to stay in their “silos” — lefties talking only to other lefties, and so on.
Even with no one posting outright lies, that allows each group to ignore inconvenient facts as well as contrary opinions — and creates the largest illusion of all, which is the belief that “most people” agree with you, and that those that don’t are somehow horrid.
If Facebook wants to fight that, it shouldn’t be trying to silence any voices — but encouraging its members to listen to messages they don’t want to hear.