From Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton arming Islamic State, fake news has become a powerful force to reckon with.
Speaking last week at a press conference in Germany, outgoing US President Barack Obama said the world was living in an age with so much active misinformation packaged very well to look like on Facebook or on TV.
“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,” Obama, whose national political career was boosted by social media, said.”
Media attention has shifted towards the unsuspecting phenomenon of fake news in a bid to understand its impact on the American electoral process since Donald Trump’s stunning victory at the polls.
On Facebook, fake news garnered more engagement than mainstream news sites from August to November 8, according to Buzzfeed’s founding editor Craig Silverman.
Fake news’ performance on the social media platform equated to 8.7 million shares, reactions and comments compared to mainstream news’ 7.3 million, Silverman said, citing data collected from Facebook.
Quick to paint a picture of influencing the divisive US elections, accusations emerged on social media platforms and news outlets depicting fake news as deliberately misleading the electorate, prompting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg CEO to announce new measures to combat the phenomenon.
“After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading,” Zuckerberg said in a post.
“These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right,” he said, claiming that more than 99% of what people saw was authentic, referring to Facebook users’ News Feed.
“That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here,” Zuckerberg explained.
Facebook’s latest measures have been met with some disapproval for what critics claim amounts to an editorial policy that could filter could content deemed important for sociopolitical movements such as the ‘Alt-Right’, a driving force behind Trump’s electoral victory.
But questions concerning its political aims have arisen in the aftermath of Trump’s successful campaign, which often bordered on incitement against minority groups in the US and decrying mainstream news as biased.
With Obama slamming fake news sites for undermining democracy, and both Google and Facebook taking drastic steps to cut them out of their platforms, and in the process dry up their revenues, one could simply say that the days of these unethical platforms are numbered.
(DW/Sifa News, additional reporting and final editing by Issa Sikiti)
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