Fake News is Just the Beginning

Facebook Fake News

Has Mark Zuckerberg failed?

Yes, Mark has glorified the mission of Facebook beyond belief, but you can't say he hasn't to some extent "connected the world". Which is not an easy, nor simple mission.

It is undeniable that Facebook has become a crucial tool in society, used to connect people with friends, family and global news.

Is Facebook perfect? Of course not. But to paint a clearer image, here is a rudimentary Pros and Cons list on this social media empire.

Cons

  • An echo chamber of confirmation bias reinforcing your beliefs
  • Use of Facebook has been linked to depression and higher divorce rates
  • Personal privacy is questionable
  • Dependency on the platform for social interactions
  • Online bullying
  • Social and political bubbles

Pros

  • Staying in touch with your friends, without really doing anything
  • Obtaining information on people
  • Establishing a network
  • Exposure to events occurring anywhere in the world 
  • Sharing ideas and topics in an efficient manner
  • Keeps users up to date on news and areas of interest

The Legal Argument

At the end of the day, Facebook is a business. They show users content that they are interested in, to keep them on the platform for as long as possible. Companies advertise by targeting users based on their interests. Facebook does not have a fiduciary duty to show you content of the "truth", they show you what their algorithm deems you are interested in seeing.

The Ethical Argument

Ethically, Mark should understand the responsibility Facebook shoulders as a social media platform of over 1.5 billion users worldwide. This is no small accomplishment, but Facebook has a very REAL IMPACT on society and people's lives.

Check out this tool, Apply Magic Sauce made by the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge, it profiles you based on your Facebook account.

Takeaway: Facebook is a tool. It is what you make of it.

Blaming Facebook for user's inability to critically assess information seems like a scapegoat for a much larger issue at hand. The lack of digital literacy in developed countries.


Digital Literacy

Noun.

Essentially, digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the internet. 

Mastering this set of technological, cognitive and social competencies is crucial if we want the digital world to be an enhancement for humanity rather than another privilege.

Here is a graph breaking it down.

And the hierarchy towards developing an advanced understanding of the digital ecosystem.

Why is this important?

Exhibit A

An estimated 46.1% of the global population is online in 2016, and it's growing every second.

Exhibit B

8/10 of the top 10 websites in the world are either search engines, social media sites, or information and content hosting sites. This means internet users are consuming MASSIVE amounts of information.

Top 10 Sites on the Web

Rank Website Type Country
1 Google.com Search Engine USA
2 YouTube.com Video Content USA
3 Facebook.com Social Media USA
4 Baidu.com Search Engine China
5 Wikipedia.org Content USA
6 Yahoo.com Search Engine USA
7 Google.co.in Search Engine India
8 QQ.com Social Media China
9 Amazon.com E-Commerce USA
10 Taobao.com E-Commerce China

Exhibit C

So basically, the online world is like the Wild West. There is a very low barrier to entry and anyone with some technical skills can start posting ANYTHING they want. However, what often drives content to virality is not quality, but the shock and sharability factors. Watch the first 5 minutes of the video below, it will give you some insight in terms of the inaccuracies of public opinion.

(Challenge: See if you can beat the chimps.)

P.S. The video above is by Hans Rosling, who recently passed away. But his legacy and vision remains, 'a fact based worldview'.

Lastly, how true is your "truth"?

It is too easy to forget that what our perspective deems to be the "truth" does not apply for everyone.

And too often we become so emotionally caught up in our mentality that we can't even begin to fathom another person's perspective. 

It is not the difference in belief that creates conflict, but rather the inability to accept other sets of truths.

perspective

So what can we do to be less ignorant? Despite the massive amount of information available.

  1. Ask better questions. It's not enough to simply read an article and take it as is. Bias is everywhere and you need to recognize your own. Understand other sides of the argument and understand your own frames of thinking.
  2. Check your privilege. It's easy to not see problems that aren't your problem. Listen to other people's stories. Know that there are invisible forces, such as the patriarchy, that dominates the 'norm' in society.
  3. Follow better media outlets committed to quality reporting of information. And never take one source as the whole story. Including this forum.
  4. Change your digital behaviour. Clickbait is like dessert, learn to consume a healthy diet of information. Cultivate a Facebook news feed that gives you quality information by clicking on better stories.
  5. Subscribe to Digital Economy Forum! Down below. And you will get weekly articles thematized to help you better understand the digital age.