Alina Pavel -
Posted on: November 19, 2016

Google and Facebook have been facing criticism from the public recently due to the abundance of misleading, inaccurate, or even entirely fake news posts. Many sources are even saying that these fake posts and articles may have swayed the opinions of voters during the presidential election; election results could have possibly been different.

But could some misleading information on a social network really have caused Trump to win? According to a poll done by Pew Research Center, approximately 44% of US adults use Facebook as one of their news sources. Now imagine if this 44% had seen all the hoax stories posted during the election, such as one about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump or the one about Bill Clinton having raped a 13-year-old girl; some people’s opinions would surely be swayed pro-Republican. During the weekend following the election, the first thing that came up after searching ‘election count’ was a false article claiming that Trump had won the popular vote.

While keen users might be able to spot the fakes, many are oblivious to the plethora of entirely fake news sites dedicated to pumping out absurd stories, an example being the Denver Guardian—based off a real Denver newspaper. These fake articles and headlines act as clickbait, making thousands of users click and share, possibly without even reading a word of it. Unfortunately, this false information can spread across the internet very rapidly, especially through open platforms such as Facebook.

However, Mark Zuckerberg is trying to undersell this issue, stating that “of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic,” and saying that the election results can’t be attributed to the stories shared on Facebook. Many employees disagree with Zuckerberg, expressing that “He knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season.” What is Zuckerberg trying to hide? Perhaps an affiliation with Trump and the Republican party? Probably not, but Facebook seems to be moving in the wrong direction as it was discovered that many of the editors responsible for fishing out the bogus articles were recently fired, leaving the website with an unending stream of false information.

Google has acted against the slew of inaccurate news sources by turning off their ad revenue service for these websites. Facebook soon followed, saying that they have launched efforts to find and exterminate sources of fake information on their website. They have even begun to develop and improve their current trending news articles to solve this issue.

Currently, their algorithm works based on popularity; the more likes or shares an item gets, the more promoted it becomes in the trending news section. It is unclear how exactly they will implement a fix, as it is difficult to distinguish fake news from real news. Instead of targeting fake news and removing it, they could potentially focus on promoting news from known, credible sources. One thing is clear, however: Facebook and Google refuse to hire human editors; instead, they would like to focus on a more unbiased, software-based approach to the problem.

While we can’t be sure if the sharing of hoax stories on Facebook had any influence on Trump’s victory, this controversy has brought attention to the importance of legitimacy—something that often seems to be lacking due to the widespread use of social media and the internet.

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