Facebook Fake News: An Election Winner?

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes

With recent events going on around the world, namely America, there has been a lot of talk about Facebook’s fake news crisis.

The News Feed algorithm on Facebook works by prioritising popular articles and links, so things that have been shared or liked multiple times by your friends are more likely to be shown in your News Feed more often. However, Facebook will also make its own recommendations based on similar stories. The problem is that Facebook’s algorithm can’t tell whether something is real or fake, especially as so many articles look as though they are published by reliable sources.

A study from Pew Research Center earlier this year stated that 62% of U.S. adults get news updates via social media, with 18% doing so often. 67% of U.S. adults use Facebook, with 44% getting news updates via the platform. Just as the saying goes ‘don’t believe everything you read’,  a study by the Media Insight Project stated that only 12% of users that got their news from Facebook actually trusted it a great deal.

Facebook News

Around the election, there were many articles that arguably could have had an impact on the result, such as:

Harambe

All of these stories were fake; but with an authentic image and (fairly) convincing title, why wouldn’t you believe them?

Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement on Facebook in response to accusations that Facebook had helped Donald Trump to win the U.S. election. “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic….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.” While Zuckerberg has denied that the fake news swung the election, Trump actually admitted that he thought social media had helped him to win the election, albeit not directly mentioning the fake news stories but instead the fact that he has a strong following.

“The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more than I spent”

Facebook unfortunately aren’t the only player in the game with a fake news problem. Google too has come under fire for fake news articles appearing within some of their top search results. When searching ‘final election results’, a blog by the name of ‘70 news’ states that Trump won both votes in the election:

Google Fake News

If the blog name itself isn’t enough to prove its an unreliable source, the blog even cites the source of their information as a tweet.

Following the fake news results, Google too have released a statement: “We will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property” With Facebook and Google both falling victim to the fake news hoaxes, there’s no clear evidence that the election was swayed by this issue. Just like us, many SEO’s have spent years trying to figure out Google’s many algorithms, and although the News service doesn’t rely on the same algorithm as the standard SERPs, it undeniably leaves us questioning; how did this happen?

Sophie Burrows
As a Senior Digital Strategist, Sophie's role is focused around working with clients to achieve their business objectives, through a mixture of digital marketing channels. Having worked closely with clients in a variety of disciplines over the last five years, Sophie has gained an invaluable insight into what makes for a successful campaign. Applying a strategic process along with deep analytics insight has made Sophie an in-demand digital strategist.