In an effort to combat the dissemination of fake news, Facebook will soon allow its users to rank the credibility of various media outlets. This would be a respectable strategy if it weren’t for one major problem: There is a large group of Facebook users who are complete idiots.
The website’s co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced the news in a Facebook post Friday. He said starting next week, the company will begin testing changes to its News Feed section, which will prioritize news outlets based on the number of people who deem the source credible and trustworthy.
There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today. Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them. That's why it's important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.
The hard question we've struggled with is how to decide what news sources are broadly trusted in a world with so much division. We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you—the community— and have your feedback determine the ranking.
I’m already stressed.
This approach is too simplistic and, quite frankly, way too trusting of the human race. But maybe—hopefully—this strategy is much more sophisticated than what Zuckerberg is describing. Facebook is one of the biggest and most popular websites in the world; surely, it has already considered the many problems that could arise with this ranking system. Bots, hackers, trolls—there are countless players who could mess it up for everyone else. And even if you took those players out, you still have to consider ideological differences among users, many of whom will disregard facts simply because it doesn't support their stance. It’s also important to remember that a 2016 Ipsos poll conducted for BuzzFeed News found that 75 percent of Americans have been fooled by fake news headlines.
Though we commend Zuckerberg for attempting to remedy the growing issue of fake news, I'm not totally convinced this is the right solution. Maybe I'm being too pessimistic. Only time will tell.