Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fighting Facebook fake news: a resolution

The Facebook app dialog to report a post includes the radio-button choice "It's a fake news story."

Trust the media, or trust your Facebook friends? Here are my 3 steps to making sure fake news cannot fake you out.

I've made countless resolutions. Some even last past New Year's Day. This time of year I'm usually resolving to eat better or swear less. This year I have another resolution that involves fudge. But I think I can keep it, and you can too. I'm resolving to fight fudged facts.

I'm taking on fake news. The pope's pick for president. Secret societies at pizza parlors. Political hit squads, gangsta style. Stories some people can't resist posting on Facebook. They're incredible. They're fantastic. No, really. They're not credible. They're fantasy.

I hadn't heard many of them till the presidential race got so close, then I heard a lot. Could the news that made the difference have been bogus? Facebook's chief, Mark Zukerberg, called that idea "crazy." Then just a month later, Facebook made fake news a thing. You can flag stories in your news feed. Volunteer fact-checkers are standing by. To report a news story to the Facebook authorities, you choose the reason from a list: It's "annoying or not interesting," inappropriate, spam or fake news.

Now, much of Facebook can be annoying, off-topic, spammy or sketchy. Choosing just one problem may not be easy. Still, many of us love Facebook or Twitter. It's where we catch up on our quirkier interests and share them with others. It's no fun to think that you have to be careful out there, but it seems some people's interests are quirkier than others.