Not only is Facebook the most influential piece of social media in the world, it also holds the largest audience as it pertains to the overall distribution of news.
Yesterday the New York Times released an article written by Farhad Manjoo, an American author and journalist who has been writing the “State of the Art” NYT column since the beginning of 2014. In the article, titled “Can Facebook Fix it’s Own Worst Bug?” Farhad Manjoo addresses the world’s third most popular website’s continuing effort to address the problems and possibly “election-defining” controversies they run into with fake news. Manjoo, at the beginning of the article makes the claim that, “Nearly two billion people use Facebook every month, about 1.2 billion of them daily. The company… has become the largest and most influential entity in the news business, commanding an audience greater than that of any American or European television news network, any newspaper or magazine in the Western world and any online news outlet,” (Manjoo NYT). Many people underestimate the power of the social media industry, or if it’s going to maintain the influence it currently has, and of course no one can predict the future of this industry as a whole but currently the social media platform known as Facebook distributes more news to people in the entire world than any television station or newspaper company so its influence runs circles around every news source. The Wall Street Journal, the largest most circulated newspaper in the United States distributes approximately 2.4 million copies daily compared to the 1.2 billion users Facebook reaches everyday. Facebook blows everybody out of the water as it pertains to total outreach. So as it relates to the issue of fake news as a whole, Facebook is not only a driving force, but when Facebook sees a fake news problem such as the one that occurred during the 2016 election, it will most certainly be the most widespread fake news issue in the world at the time.
The most infamous of the numerous fake news stories that received attention during this past election was that Pope Francis officially supported and endorsed Donald Trump for president. Now the question to confront is: would this story have received as much attention as it did, or have as large of an impact as it did, if it wasn’t for Facebook? On the social media platform alone, the fake news story regarding Pope Francis’s support of Trump received nearly a million interactions. Also consider the other fake stories that were spread during the election such as #Pizzagate, the story that Hilary Clinton was running a underground prostitution/child trafficking ring through a chain of pizzerias of which received a lot of its attention through 4chan and Reddit. The story actually caused a shooting at the Comet pizzeria in Washington that was mentioned in Clinton’s leaked emails. As well as the story that the terrorist organization ISIS supported Hilary Clinton during the election, a story that received nearly 600,000 hits on Facebook. What’s interesting about the content of these fake news stories is that they were largely attacking Clinton while supporting Trump. The connotations that can be made from the support of Pope Francis is on the completely other, positive, side of the spectrum while support from a terrorist organization reflects much differently and places itself on the opposite side of that spectrum.
The crazy thing about Facebook is that, due to its algorithm, it displays on people’s newsfeed exactly what they want to see and click on. And in many ways this is a good thing, but in many others it’s not. Facebook takes the feeds of every cable television station, every newspaper, and every other piece of social media such as Twitter or Instagram, puts them all together, and throws it out in a unique way on to the users’ newsfeed that will personally and/or professionally appeal most to them. So the “trolls,” or bots, that are paid to spread fake news have everything they need, a full arsenal and artillery at their disposal. All they have to do is refresh their newsfeed on Facebook.
Gallucci, Nicole. “Facebook’s Fake News Problem Was so Bad Even Barack Obama Talked to Him about It.” Mashable. Mashable, 25 Apr. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://mashable.com/2017/04/25/mark-zuckerberg-obama-facebook-criticism/#FU9_2apxSaqB>.
Manjoo, Farhad. “Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Apr. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/magazine/can-facebook-fix-its-own-worst-bug.html>.
Ritchie, Hannah, and Special To CNBC.com. “Read All about It: The Fakest News Stories of 2016.” CNBC. CNBC, 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html>.