Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trumping the Headlines

By Ann Jacob

It's safe to say that the nation (and the world) were glued to the media last Tuesday as Donald J. Trump swept up state after state after state. While many didn't think Trump had the win even as late as Tuesday afternoon, it didn't stop citizens and journalists alike from wondering, "Where did we go wrong?"

Now, over a week after the election, president-elect Donald Trump is stealing all the headlines but the question above is one that major networks and publications all across the country are still working to answer.

Fake Headlines - Hook, Line, and Sinker

If you saw a headline on your Facebook timeline reading something along the lines of, "Pope Francis Shocks the World, Endorses Donald Trump for President" and liked, shared, or commented on how good or bad it was that the Pope of all people was making endorsements, you've been fooled.
Even reputable groups can't decipher real v. fake news, meaning they are passing on false information to all of their followers and friends. Credit: Afghanistan And Israel People Friendship Association Facebook page.

CBS News probed into Buzzfeed's study of click bait articles. Apparently, during September, October, and November of 2016, Facebook users interacted with the top 20 fake election-related articles more than 8.7 million times. This number is shocking, however, the number of times users interacted with the top 20 stories from real publications is far more surprising - fewer than 7.4 million times. 

From Trump calling the media "scum" to "crooked" to the "lowest form of life", the media as a whole is getting a lot of bad publicity. President Obama understands the power of social media. Many will argue that it was the sole reason he clinched his 2012 win.

"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," the president said.

Social Media Mogul Denies Election Influence

Interestingly, CBS pointed out that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg disagreed. 
Mark Zuckerberg
Credit: Lluis Gene/Getty Images

"I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea."

Zuckerberg has also denied that Facebook is a media company, a comment to which hundreds disagreed.

This comment is especially interesting confounding considering these facts about Facebook.

According to Yahoo Finance, up until mid-August of 2016, Facebook paid a team to curate it's "Trending Topics" section. They also make editorial judgments on what kinds of content can be posted. Third, it is "outright bankrolling media producers like The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Vox, and Business Insider to create content for its Facebook Live video service." (CBS was not listed as a company paid by Facebook.) Lastly, earlier this summer, Facebook said it would be cracking down on apparent clickbait.

Most recently, CBS says Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook is looking for ways to flag fake news.

Ultimately, traditional networks like CBS will be caught in the bind if the internet doesn't figure out how to filter out false headlines. Many say they truth will prevail but when even the president-elect says things that he later admits are false, it's too late. The damage has been done and it's difficult to reverse. Similarly, when people read fake news without even knowing it's false, the damage could be permanent.

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