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Audrey Watters

Feeding Facebook

2 min read

Cross-posted on Facebook, and I can't even believe I have to tell grown-ass people this.

Facebook has become a key vehicle for spreading misinformation. Please do not contribute to this. If nothing else, as we’ve seen this week, misinformation serves to undermine democracy.

BEFORE YOU CLICK “SHARE,” READ THE ARTICLE. Facebook doesn’t want you to leave its site. It gives you a headline and a pretty picture. But click and read the article. Does the article content match the headline? Do you need to share the article with a bit of clarification or explanation? What’s the date on the article? (Friends don’t let friends let Chinua Achebe die again. Let’s have that be a goal for 2017.)

BEFORE YOU CLICK “SHARE,” NOTICE THE SOURCE. Look at the domain name. We’re pretty good at identifying well-known media companies, and we think we understand their biases. I’m not saying “don’t share biased information.” My complaint here isn’t about liberal news sites or conservative ones. It’s about fake news. It’s about propaganda. (RT, remember, is funded by the Russian government.) Many new news sites, created specifically for Facebook-sharing, specialize in misinformation. (See this recent Buzzfeed story, for starters: https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/partisan-fb-pages-analysis.) Facebook fuels this. It spreads it. It does so algorithmically. And every time you share one of these stories, you’re fueling this misinformation too. What sorts of other stories does this site have? If there are more than two stories about the Illuminati or aliens, maybe you should think twice about sharing an article from that site. Maybe? If nothing else, find another more reliable site and share an article from there instead.

BEFORE YOU CLICK “SHARE,” DO A CURSORY SEARCH TO SEE IF, INDEED, THE CLAIMS ARE VERIFIABLE. What sorts of expertise is being claimed? By whom? Snopes.com is a start. There’s also Factcheck.org. You might want to consider also checking the Southern Poverty Law Center to see if what you’re sharing is connected to a hate group (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/groups). I can’t even believe I have to tell you this. Jesus, people. Pull your shit together.