November 29th, 2016
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
As you may have heard, Google, along with social media sites Facebook and Twitter, recently faced a backlash over the alleged role they played in the U.S. presidential election, where many claim the spread of fake news influenced voters to support Republican candidate Donald Trump. While Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has vehemently insisted the site played no role in swaying the vote, the popular social media platform has since announced a strategy to limit “fake” news.
Although this new direction may seem worthwhile at first glance, upon further inspection, we soon realize that Facebook’s 7-point plan is yet another bid at censorship, especially where alternative media is concerned.
The Choice Between Free Speech and Censorship
Zuckerberg himself admits, “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.” And adds, “The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
However, within a few days, he apparently had a change of heart. On November 18, 2016, Zuckerberg posted the following 7-point plan to reduce fake news on the platform:
“While the percentage of misinformation is relatively small, we have much more work ahead on our roadmap. Normally we wouldn’t share specifics about our work in progress, but given the importance of these issues and the amount of interest in this topic, I want to outline some of the projects we already have underway:
- Stronger detection. The most important thing we can do is improve our ability to classify misinformation. This means better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves.
- Easy reporting. Making it much easier for people to report stories as fake will help us catch more misinformation faster.
- Third party verification. There are many respected fact checking organizations and, while we have reached out to some, we plan to learn from many more.
- Warnings. We are exploring labeling stories that have been flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them.
- Related articles quality. We are raising the bar for stories that appear in related articles under links in News Feed.
- Disrupting fake news economics. A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. We’re looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.
- Listening. We will continue to work with journalists and others in the news industry to get their input, in particular, to better understand their fact checking systems and learn from them.”
Even though Facebook’s plan may appear on the surface to be a sound measure, The Free Thought Project has this to say:
“In other words, apart from spam detection, which other websites and platforms have effectively combatted for years, Facebook’s plan to ‘detect’ misinformation will be based on what any idiot says. Although the people of this planet generally operate from a place of honesty and integrity, let’s face it, humans have nasty penchants for retribution, revenge, sanctimonious arrogance, self-righteousness, misjudgment, mischaracterization, hyperbole, and — most imperatively — making mistakes.
“Relying on people’s personal assessments of possibly-false news items as the primary driver of what deserves to be branded with a Scarlet Letter “F” is a system destined to fail everyone before it even begins.”
Many feel that Facebook is already biased where alternative media is concerned, and now, with this new plan, it will become even more slanted.
“Mark, will you also fight government sponsored propaganda of the United States?” asked user Jiri Klouda. “What about articles where unnamed government officials intentionally share false information with journalists, often with grave consequences. Like for example in the lead up to the Iraq war, or many other wars. We’d like to know that if you are going to fight against disinformation that it will be applied evenly and not just in one sided way as the mass market US media companies do.” [source]
This is one of the greatest threats to the free press:
“Facebook, backed by a polarized public, will be the arbiter of acceptable thought — and those who dare question or criticize that thought will pay with their livelihoods. Far worse, everyone will pay the price of lost access to information. We’re already starting to.” [source]
Such a threat is especially true when we consider censorship of alternative media is currently alive and well on Facebook to begin with.
The Success of Alternative Media Comes at a Price — Increased Censorship
Over the last decade, the “truth movement” has gained incredible momentum — largely due to the fact that people are waking up and realizing mainstream media is a bought-and-paid-for industry, which has a strong inclination to run stories that support their political agenda and bottom line.
So when it was made clear that alternative media was not only here to stay, but was becoming wildly successful at informing the masses, corporate media and those who stood to lose from this revolution weren’t about to just sit around idly. Information needed to be controlled, and what better way than to alter the algorithm on the worlds most popular social media site: Facebook. Many of us in alternative media have seen a massive downward spiral of exposure on Facebook over the last year. Where our audience was growing in leaps and bounds before, it has now slowed to a trickle. Traffic from Facebook postings is a shadow of what it once was.
Writes Phillip J. Watt in the article, The Alternative Media is Replacing the Mainstream Media: Here’s How You Can Help:
“Personally I have been writing in the independent media for close to three years. By the end of the second year, some of my individual articles had hundreds of thousands of views, as well as shared on Facebook over one hundred thousand times. On average they were being shared between ten to twenty thousand times, with the poorly-circulating article getting at least one or two thousand shares. Yet when the changes happened to Facebook’s news-feed algorithms around a year ago, it all started to change. Slowly the engagement and therefore the social shares decreased, to the point I’m satisfied if I get a few thousand shares out of an article. This isn’t an isolated experience either; I have spoken with many other website managers/creators, and they’re struggling with decreased engagement across the board.”
He points out that “In essence, the changes that have been made to Facebook and Google algorithms have absolutely smashed the circulation of the alternative media, which has decreased the money they make, which in turn restricts the amount they can invest to continue to grow.”
How to Help Keep Free Speech Alive
- For alternative media sites you follow on Facebook, make sure to take action on individual posts — like, comment and share as much as possible to increase their social reach.
- Select the “See First” option, which is found in the drop-down menu for the “liked” button. This will ensure posts from the page will actually show up in your Newsfeed. You can also choose to receive notifications when the page has a new post.
- Sign-up for email newsletters from your favorite sites to avoid Facebook censorship altogether. (You can sign up to Wake Up World’s newsletter here, and get my my newsletter at Thrive Living here.)
Lastly, consider supporting alternative media through small reoccurring monthly donations. Or participate in crowdfunding campaigns like this one for Collective Evolution, where you can directly fund independent media to keep the truth movement flourishing.
Related reading: Why “Alternative” Media is the New Mainstream
About the author:
Carolanne Wright enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years.
Through her website Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. You can also follow Carolanne on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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