Whythe Social Media Companies Should Assume the Responsibility ofPreventing Fake News
Technologyhas affected human life in negative as well as positive ways. The useof the social media as a reliable tool for disseminating news hasincreased exponentially due to its high level of convenience and theability to save time (Maheshwari 1). However, the spread of fake newsduring the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S. provided aninsight into potential negative impacts of innovation. This paperwill advance an argument that the responsibility of preventing thespread of fake news should be assumed by the social media companies.
Companiesthat own the social media platforms have been competing on the basisof the number of subscribers, while focusing less on the impact oftheir operations on the community. Their main agendas have been tocause digital disruption and replace the mainstream institutions(Majoo 1). These enterprises have ignored the concept of corporatesocial responsibility, which requires them to consider the interestsof all stakeholders in their business strategies. These argumentssuggest that the companies in question have a role to play incontrolling the spread of fake news. They can achieve this byadjusting their business models in order to increase theirsensitivity to the interests of the members of the society, whoexpect to receive credible and reliable information from them.
Theelimination of the financial incentives that have motivated manyusers of the contemporary technology to spread fake news can enablethe social media sites to reduce the capacity of the spammers toaccess them. The blame can be passed to corporations, and notconsumers of the technology. While discussing the causes of falseinformation Robyn Caplan, one of the New York Times debaters stated,“it is linked to the economic and organizational incentives behindFacebook’s News Feed algorithm” (p. 1). This data suggests thatthese corporations can upgrade their algorithms in a way that willhelp them to detect websites that use their advertising sections toattract followers to fake contents. These strategies have been provento be effective by the introduction of functions that allow customersto report suspected fake contents on Facebook’s website, where theattached URLs are deleted completely (Dooling 1). An effectivealgorithm will also allow their customers to report suspicious postsusing the procedure. Therefore, the social media companies have thecapacity to shut down the market for false news.
Promotionof Ethics in Journalism
Thesocial media companies have the resources and the technical skillsthat they need in order to enhance ethics in the field ofjournalisms. The number of people who rely on these platforms to getnews has been increasing exponentially. However, it is necessary forthe companies to stop competing on the basis of the number of viewsand clicks and start investing in professional journalists. Severalproposals have been made on how the social media corporations canenhance their level of responsibility and increase the credibility ofthe content posted on their sites daily. Cathy O’Neil, aparticipant in the New York Time’s debate suggested that thecompanies in question should use a combination of algorithm and humaneditors to evaluate the credibility of all messages that are sharedby users. O’Neil addressed the weaknesses of Facebook and stated,“It will need to use actual human judgment if it wishes to addressthis problem” (p. 1). Professional journalists and editors can helpthe social media firms to assess the credibility of each web linkthat is attached to posts made by individuals and companies. The needfor recruitment of human resources to prevent fake news is to ensurethat site users who are able to bypass the algorithm are alsodetected and prevented from sharing their hoaxes through theplatforms.
Mostof the scholars and stakeholders are of the opinion that the socialmedia companies should play the primary role of preventing thedissemination of fake news. However, there are others who believethat this obligation should be assumed by individual consumers of theinformation. Glavin stated, “Social media companies can’t be thearbiters of what is “true” (p. 1). The argument is based on theprinciple of the right of individuals to express their ideas withoutbeing restricted. This notion implies that the social media companiesshould allow all users of their platforms to post their contentfreely and leave the responsibility of assessing the credibility ofthe information to its consumers (Glavin 1). These opponents alsohold that the measures taken by the government and corporations arecounterproductive since they create a perception that their intentionis to deny members of the public the right to be informed. The twoentities can shape the media sector in destructive and constructiveways in order to achieve their selfish interests. This argumentleaves the social media users as the most suitable parties todetermine the impact of fake news and avoid spreading or using themto make decisions. They are advised to consume the informationselectively by shunning away from the false content.
Anargument that users of the modern technology need to assess thecredibility of what they read online is genuine, but they can onlysupplement the efforts made by owners of these innovations. The speedwith which information is shared on the social media platforms isamong the key challenges that limit the capacity of the owners ofthese sites to regulate the quality of the posts (Dooling 1).However, the distributors of fake news take advantage of this speedand expediency to share foxes to innocent citizens. For example, theallegation that the anti-Trump protestors has been sponsored andtransported using special buses was shared by more than 16,000 usersof Twitter and 307,616 Facebook followers as shown in Figure 1(Dooling 1). The owners of social sites cannot pass theresponsibility of controlling the behavior of reckless individuals totheir customers. They have a role to play in educating their users onhow to differentiate legitimate news from the fake ones. Enlighteningcitizens on how to distinguish between true and phony contents canbreak the cycle in which people use their emotional responses tospread information (Dooling 1).
Figure1: Dissemination of fake news on Facebook
Ownersof the social platforms can use their own sites to reach users andeducate them. This argument indicates that, although individualconsumers of the technology contribute towards the spread of the fakenews by sharing the links with their friends, the primaryresponsibility of enlightening the public lies with the corporations.Figure 1 show that the distributors of fake news are able to takeadvantage of the high speed of disseminating contents via the socialmedia to an extent that individual companies may be overwhelmed.Training users of how to detect the fake information can help themavoid making wrong decisions, even if the social media firm has notmanaged to delete the entire phony content.
Thedecision on who should assume the responsibility of preventing thedissemination of fake news has become among the controversial issuesin the recent past. There are two camps where one of them holds thatthe social media companies should assume the primary role while theother one argues that the duty of assessing the credibility of theposts should be left to consumers of the technology. The two groupsbase their contributions to the debate on reasonable ideas, but thereis more empirical data to show that the owners of these platforms canbe more effective in regulating the spread of phony content than theusers of the social sites. These companies can educate the consumersof the posts, update their algorithms, and recruit human editors aswell as professional journalists.
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Glavin,A. Facebook, Twitter users must be more critical of content. TheNew York Times.22 November. 2016. Web. 31 December 2016.
Maheshwari,S. How fake news goes viral: A case study. TheNew York Times.2016. Web. 5 January 2016.
Majoo,F. Social media’s globe-shaking power. TheNew York Times.16 November. 2016. Web. 5 January 2016.
O’Neil,C. Social media companies like Facebook need to hire human editors.TheNew York Times.22 November. 2016. 31 December 2016.