President Barack Obama has spoken out about the deluge of fake news that pervades social media sites (especially Facebook), saying, "If we are not serious about facts, and what's true and what's not... If we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems."
The president addressed the issue of fake news at a press conference in Germany Thursday, telling reporters that in an age where many source their news from social media sites, intentionally falsely reported stories now look and seem like real news at the outset.
"If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect," the president continued, "We won’t know what to fight for." Ultimately, the president says, "We can lose so much of what we've gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we've come to take for granted."
There's no question that fake news was extremely popular on Facebook during this past election season. A Buzzfeed analysis found that in the last three months of the election, fake news from hoax sites and "hyperpartisan blogs" vastly out-performed mainstream news stories about the election. Prior to the last three months, mainstream (which is to say trust-worthy and generally reliable) news sites were clearly dominant on Facebook.
Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyahn told Buzzfeed he was "troubled" by Facebook's lack of policy action around fake news, saying, "Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it."