Zuckerberg should take responsibility for fake news on Facebook

By Jamie Linton , Columnist

When’s the last time you picked up a newspaper?  If you’re reading this in print, you’re in the minority. 

According to Pew Research Center, only 5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 get their news from a print newspaper, while 38 percent of Americans reported online content to be their main news source. 

Since such a large portion of the American public relies on social media to provide it with news coverage, it is quite alarming to hear that fake news sites are allowed to advertise on popular websites like Facebook and Google.

In the immediate aftermatch of the already controversial election, it was reported that numerous fake news outlets were prominently featured on both sites during the election, meaning that they could have swayed political opinions during a particularly volatile period. 

And unlike false tabloid stories, this fake news isn’t as outlandish as one would assume.  A BuzzFeed graph shows that the most popular fake news article announced that Pope Francis was endorsing Donald Trump, while others had clickbait titles centered around popular controversies such as the Hillary Clinton email server and her ties to the FBI.

These reports were completely made up, but they aren’t so outrageous as to be immediately considered fraudulent by the common Facebook or Google user, which is why Mark Zuckerberg’s lack of urgency surrounding this issue is problematic. 

While the CEO of Facebook is proud of his social network’s ability to allow people to voice their opinions throughout the election and connect candidates to their followers, he is hypocritical to claim that Facebook is a technology company rather than a media company. 

When a networking outlet’s main utility is to allow people to share their thoughts and network with others, it becomes a media tool. And since the scope of Facebook’s usership is so vast, it becomes a source of major influence.

It’s clear Zuckerberg’s statement was made to protect the interest of his company and avoid conflict due to what its users post. However, it’s one thing for your crazy Aunt Sue to post viral fake news websites because she doesn’t know better, and another to allow the algorithms that control advertising on your website to mass circulate false information that seems like it has been published from a credible news source.

In a Nov. 12 statement made by Zuckerberg on Facebook, he claims that “more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic.” But when these fake news articles gain over 900,000 engagements each, this “minor” problem is sure to have an impact on public opinion.

According to Pew Research, 18 percent of American adults state that their main source of news is through social media.  Zuckerberg said the idea that Facebook could affect the election is a “crazy idea,” but the statistics show otherwise.

Although Facebook is likely gaining a lot of revenue from these fake news sources, such as the one backed by Macedonian teenagers, it is Zuckerberg’s responsibility to tweak algorithms and ban fraudulent websites, something he has fortunately pledged to do since the outbreak of this information.

Hopefully, this becomes a problem of the past and not a persistent issue in elections to come.       

Jamie is a freshman in Media.
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