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Should social media take editorial responsibility?

By Rimante Boguzaite

Facebook under fire for spreading fake news articles among its 118 billion daily users.

Media is thought to be one of the main elements that affected the outcome of the US Presidential election. With the latest Pew survey showing 62% of Americans find their news on social media, it is not surprising that sites like Facebook had a massive impact on Trump’s victory.

Declining trust in mainstream media has been driving voters to turn to social media for news, which often use toxic strategies to cater to their audience.

Micro-targeting is a marketing strategy that uses consumer data to identify interests of specific individuals and deliver special messages catering to these interests. It is known not only to drive political campaigns, but social media, making sites like Facebook into echo chambers where people get their views and opinions validated.

Articles appearing in your feed can look just as reputable as real news, however Facebook’s algorithm “doesn’t know how to distinguish between real and not real”, said technology writer Kate Bevan. With no ethical filter on the platform, the website becomes a hotpot of lies and extreme political views, where misogyny and racism are rife.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied claims that the site had any impact on the outcome of the election and put the figure of hoax articles on the platform at less than 1%.

With at least 38% of articles of major republican websites identified as partly or completely false, Facebook needs to assume responsibility and take action by establishing editorial guidelines and gatekeeping for both the editorial staff and its users.

Freedom of speech in the US is guaranteed by the 1st amendment, but it shouldn’t be used to justify lies, hate or violence. Freedom comes with duties and responsibilities, and these should be executed by both media and its consumers. Maybe then we could deem news trustworthy again.

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