Remember when we woke up to the news that Rowan Atkinson was dead a few years ago? Or when a protest march took place at America’s Bowling Green for a massacre that didn’t happen? How about when Twitter exploded with the news of a ‘#baconshortage’ last month?
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That’s right, all fake.
Fake news has a large audience on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. People tend to believe what they read online, and so when the news about a celebrity mugging or a plastic surgery gone wrong gears up on our newsfeed, we tend to take their word for it. This endless game of Chinese Whispers, often fuelled by local media sites to increase their traffic, has been noted enough times. However, there is no real or legal avenue of nipping it in the bud. With platforms as open and accessible as a Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, it is difficult to track how much fake content can be posted in a day, and it is even harder to remove it.
According to investor Michael Dearing however, the trick lies in highlighting it. In a recent interview of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher, Dearing stated that while companies can spend enormous amounts of time and money in filing legal suits against propagators of the fake news, it is more prudent to just make the masses aware that the news is, indeed, fake.
“These markets are messy. They’re full of crazy people who like to do their own thing and they don’t want to hear about rules from a particular company that they patronize,” he says.
To Dearing, the way to deal with fake news is fairly simple. The administrators of the social media sites that are being used as a “dirty diary” can resort to the “pen, price-tag or flashlight” measures. If they wish to use the pen, they can draft legislation for what kind of content is allowed on their site. If they prefer the price-tag approach, they can sue the individual or company which is sourcing this fake news on their pages.
However, the flashlight technique, a personal favourite of Dearing, involves fake news being highlighted in bright yellow by the admins of the respected platforms, consequently clearing up the “zero credibility” factor of both the content and the source it is coming from.
“…you can shine a flashlight on it and say, ‘Hey, we’re not here to judge, but we want you to know where these people are coming from, what country of origin did this news item originate in, what are the credentials of the people who supplied it?’” he stated.
He also claims that for companies like Facebook, which have a revenue model based on ads and user-growth, the need to eradicate fake news from their site is tenfold. This is because platforms of their stature simply cannot afford to lose their credibility on account of false content.
With the plethora of social media interactive platforms that are on the rise today, it can take all but an instant for sites like Facebook to become obsolete, making it imperative for them to take action as swiftly as possible.
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