Where do you get your news and current information?

I get a lot of mine via Facebook. I like to think I have a well-trained eye for the source behind the content, regardless of the branded blue and white interface that it’s presented in. But the perception of “Facebook as a news source” is an increasing problem for a brand that authors no content. This is the age of news-entertainment and hyper-partisan journalistic agendas.

Facebook simply stack-ranks the posts that users seem to care about and then pushes them forward to relevant audiences. So in fact, I get a lot of my info “through Facebook” but not exactly “from Facebook."

Facebook is not in the business of editing or editorializing the content that is shared there even though they have increasingly acknowledged their corporate responsibility for the experience they provide. They offer a connected environment for the exchange of information first, and a very lucrative advertising product second. Some might argue those priorities are reversed. But I’m fairly certain Mark Zuckerburg still believes that advertising on Facebook has no value if the audience is undermined by it. This is a principle that is seriously challenged by the current reality.

The company has a major product issue in this way, and they’re trying to dismantle it without losing their secret sauce. In the current social environment, it is actually profitable for entities spreading misinformation to build larger audiences by doing so. Facebook has attempted to address this but seems to be outpaced by the issues at hand — AdWeek - Facebook Pages that Share Fake News Will Be Blocked from Advertising

If a story is getting attention, Facebook deems it more relevant, and accelerates its exposure to more users, compounding the viral effect. This makes sense when it’s something harmless, funny, interesting or truly relevant. But when information is deliberately crafted to do political damage, the fact that users are fascinated by it without gauging its veracity is a huge problem for the platform.

The algorithm’s reward for zeitgeist has been harnessed by partisan publishers in a way that is politically potent, yet profitable for Facebook. The company understands this threat to it’s future, but the solution cannot be simple when audience engagement substantiates the value of the content, especially when it’s apparently “false” information.

People have been talking about the “death of Facebook” since it opened itself up beyond a student-only social network. The organization tends to figure out the issues and navigate them extremely well to remain relevant and useful. The pressure is on, but I have come to expect that Facebook would rather make the most responsibly balanced move for their audience and their business than the most popular or expeditious one.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media