We may typically think of Fox News as “fake” news but, in the realm of misinformation, Fox News is facing competition from websites that literally make shit up.
Fox News is known for willfully misrepresenting or misinterpreting the news to their audience, but a completely-fake news economy emerged during this election cycle that is only just now being confronted after it’s already too late.
Buzzfeed reported last week that fake news actually outperformed real news on Facebook during the final months of the 2016 election.
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Among the most popular fake news stories were stories on Pope Francis endorsing Trump and Hillary Clinton selling weapons to ISIS. Obviously, neither of those events actually occured.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg previously downplayed the prevalence and impact of fake news, but he reversed course last week when the company announced that it will withhold revenue from hoax news sites. And that’s the key, because this wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is if there weren’t a market for it.
Many of the owners and operators of fake news sites that emerged during this election cycle aren’t even American. Some are foreign teenagers who don’t believe their own stories.
There are many reasons why I do not use Facebook, most of them personal, but this is another reason. I understand that Facebook was once a convenient way for friends and family members to stay in touch with each other, and maybe it still is for a decreasing number of people, but it’s also a source of toxic vitriol and bullshit stories like those mentioned above. As far as I’m concerned, Facebook is the sewer of society and, unfortunately, it has become a primary news source for a distressing number of people.
That is the intended design of Facebook. They want users to use the platform for virtually everything including the news, and some enterprising kids in other countries figured out a way to make lots of money off stupid Americans by flooding the platform with fake news.