The bulls**t is hitting the fan down at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, on the heels of Monday’s Daily Beast report that the Kremlin has been organizing right-wing rallies remotely on the social media platform and a Reuters disclosure that both a Senate Intelligence Committee and Facebook internal employees are up in arms over the extent to which Facebook hosts misinformation and shares little data about how bad the problem is. All of these bombshells work under the assumption that the fake news problem, while very real, can ultimately be fixed with some combination of militance and fact-checking.
That may not be the case. According to a new analysis highlighted by Politico, tagging fake news on the platform as “disputed” makes negligible difference on whether people believe the baloney. And in the case of supporters of take-a-wild-guess-who, the disputed tag on fake news makes them more likely to believe the story.
The full peer-reviewed analysis from Yale University called Assessing the Effect of “Disputed” Warnings and Source Salience on Perceptions of Fake News Accuracy reports in its abstract that “With respect to disputed warnings, we find that tagging articles as disputed did significantly reduce their perceived accuracy relative to a control without tags, but only modestly (d=.20, 3.7 percentage point decrease in headlines judged as accurate). Furthermore, we find a backfire effect particularly among Trump supporters and those under 26 years of age whereby untagged fake news stories are seen as more accurate than in the control.”
This is the America we live in, people.
Mindful of keeping investors happy and vested stock options valuable, Facebook is bravely applying another fig leaf to their ad ecosystem that Russian trolls have so shrewdly exploited. TechCrunch reports that Facebook is taking steps to ban the monetization of ads featuring violence, pornography, drugs and hate speech on their nascent platforms for Branded Content, Instant Articles, and their new video hub called Facebook Watch.
A cynic could argue that Facebook is is merely trying to promote the existence of Branded Content, Instant Articles, and their new video hub called Facebook Watch. But these new assurances really are of critical importance to the ad-tech industry, because Facebook’s ad platform, while dominant, remains plagued by wildly inaccurate ad metrics and pushing brands’ ads to hate sites like Breitbart.
(Hilariously, the above-linked New York Times report about brands’ ads inadvertently appearing on Breitbart found that New York Times ads were inadvertently appearing on Breitbart.)
This all gives you a sense of how Facebook — unknowingly — made a deal with the devil to achieve their wildly successful $500 billion valuation and are now frantically trying to renegotiate the terms. These developments come against the backdrop of CEO Mark Zuckerberg showing aspirations beyond managing the platform he founded. But shady advertisers and online trolls, at least for time being, can "fake it 'til they make it" using Facebook better than Zuckerberg can.