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Coles College of Business

Facebook at 15

Facts vs. Fakes

It might not have shown up in your notifications, but Facebook recently turned 15.

So how has Facebook managed not only to survive, but thrive, when so many other social media platforms – MySpace, Google+ and Vine, to name a few – have failed?

Facebook has continued to evolve over the past decade and a half, and it’s not just the sheer number of people using Facebook – more than 2 billion worldwide – but how they use the platform, according to Kennesaw State social media expert Tyra Burton.

Social media sites have surpassed print newspapers as the No. 1 source for Americans to get their news, and Facebook is the pathway to news for about four in 10 Americans, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

“With more people not picking up a newspaper and instead looking at Facebook for their news, Facebook has a responsibility to its users to try to make sure that factually-correct information is being shared on a regular basis,” said Burton, a marketing and professional sales professor and published author on social media marketing.

“With more people not picking up a newspaper and instead looking at Facebook for their news, Facebook has a responsibility to its users to try to make sure that factually-correct information is being shared on a regular basis.”

Tyra Burton, marketing and professional sales professor at Kennesaw State University

Burton says that last year the company took the important step of deciding to work with third-party fact-checkers to fight the spread of false news in response to how use of the platform has changed.

“That was something that needed to happen, and Facebook had to be the one to do it,” Burton said. “Twitter, for example, has a lot of fact issues as well, but Twitter is less than a fifth the size of Facebook in terms of users.”

Content rated as false by Facebook’s fact-checkers gets dropped to a lower spot in the news feed. Pages that repeatedly publish false content can lose their ability to advertise and monetize on Facebook, and ultimately can lose their registration as a news page on the site.

“Everybody can make a mistake, but Facebook is targeting those pages that are notorious for click-bait and false news,” Burton said.

Facebook Screenshot

It’s a necessary step after Facebook took a couple of reputation hits of its own, namely the concerns about its role in the 2016 presidential election in the wake of a Russian agency purchasing 3,000 Facebook ads.

While Facebook’s fact-checkers catch as much as possible, you can do your own sleuthing to identify fake news stories. A few suggestions from Burton:

  • See if the information being reported is available on other sites
  • Search the “news outlet” if you haven’t heard of it
  • Check for URLs that end with “.com.co” or “.lo” (for example, abcnews.com.co) to mimic legitimate news sites
  • Look for misspelled words, poor grammar and dramatic wording like ALL CAPS
  • Proceed with caution if the content was promoted on a website known for click-bait

“Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, hopefully you realize that there is a lot of false information and twisting of information out there,” Burton said. “It can be easy to spot if you just take a little time to do it.”

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