Chances are, a huge chunk of news and sound bites that you take in on any given day will come while scrolling down your Facebook wall. The domination of Facebook is so marked in media that every media house which wants to stay relevant must have a Facebook page that is an extension of their actual websites.
The American elections, which have been described as the first of its kind, was choked full of scandalous events like Hillary Clinton’s FBI investigation into her use of private email servers and President-elect Trump’s audio clip describing sexually indecent behavior towards women.
As much as the examples given above support the more thoroughly verifiable scandals that occurred in this year’s election scandal, there were other bizzare and plain untrue reports that went viral on Facebook.
One such example would be the Pope’s supposed endorsement of President-elect Trump which never happened but was shared over 868,000 times on Facebook. A Snopes piece which exposed the report as false only gathered about 33,000 shares.
Another example was documented in a BuzzFeed article which noted that a fake story from Macedonia headlined, “Hillary Clinton In 2013: ‘I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office; They’re Honest And Can’t Be Bought,'” garnered 480,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook which was almost three times more engagement than the big scoop by New York Times of Donald Trump declaring $916 million in losses on his 1995 income tax returns.
Partisan news, conspiracies and fake articles about the US elections and the candidates who ran ruled supreme on Facebook in the course of the US election cycle and President-elect Trump embraced this social media machine, successfully using it to undermine the actual media establishment and other fact checkers.
His complete embrace of Facebook and other social media platforms like twitter are easily evidenced by the way he engaged in sharing or retweeting false crime data that massively overstated issues.
The influence of Facebook and the problem of fake news was so noticeable and bothersome that President Obama felt the need to address it at a Clinton rally Monday in Michigan. He said at the rally;
“And people, if they just repeat attacks enough, and outright lies over and over again, as long as it’s on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it’s on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense.”
Donald Trump executed a shocking victory over Hillary Clinton after Wednesday’s votes and the role of Facebook and social media as a whole in enabling his victory cannot be ignored. The only question left to be answered is whether Facebook should in the future have the responsibility to stop, or at least identify to readers, phony news?
There is very little likelihood that Facebook will want to take up that responsibility, so maybe everyone just has to learn to use the medium to their advantage like President-elect Trump did.