November 8th of 2016, the world witnessed how a real estate mogul paved his way to the white house and it was a jarring result for most of the people as Donald Trump was an underdog in the US presidential race for most of the period. Although Mark Zuckerberg denies allegations that Facebook had a large impact on the outcome of the election, we could not look over the fact that it might at least have influenced a part of Americans who get their news through Facebook.
Facebook has been subjected with much scrutiny for the past few days. It has got Democracy experts worried that this trend might damage the democratic thoughts of people and that is the result of Internet. The impact of technology is very huge as is believed to have influenced a nation in its growth.
String of theories influenced a nation
In 2007, a legal theorist noted the filtering effects of the spread of information on the Web
“As a result of the Internet, we live increasingly in an era of enclaves and niches—much of it voluntary, much of it produced by those who think they know, and often do know, what we’re likely to like,”
Are we being too hard on Facebook?
But one thing to note is that, Facebook is not the only social network to spread hoaxes but there are plenty more. Buzz feed found that the twenty top fake news stories outperformed the other twenty legitimate one which gives a clear understanding that people are drawn to fake news and often fall bait to it. Facebook, being widely used, has fallen prey. The accusation lies with the Facebook’s news algorithm which trawls from an online friend and spreads through like wildfire. A few months ago when the election campaign was at a decisive peak, news like Pope endorsing Trump and Hillary’s underworld murderous ring had surfaced which were completely baseless and false.
Getting to the roots of this problem
A normal average working class person does not have time to go through the newspaper everyday. So it is obvious that most of them get their information through Facebook and the false news did not help the cause. Although Mark Zuckerberg is in denial mode that this changed the course of the election, in retrospect he would not have wanted that. And as much as people like to complain, it is a very hard thing to contain so much information. It is fair enough to say that, this has opened up a new research field.
How the Fact-checker enormously failed Hillary
Hillary, during the debates tried to tackle her way out of this mess by using fact checking tools in her website. This was in hopes that people will not be mislead through all the contradicting things her opponent had to say. This fact checking thing she tried clearly did not work. This is because most people no longer agree on high quality news and as Gregory Ferenstein says in his article.
“If fake news wasn’t on Facebook, people would find it somewhere else”
This principally means that, any rabble-rouser can spread fake information through social media and get away with it. To curb this menace students have come to the rescue. A group of students participating in a Hackathon brainstormed the idea of preventing the spread of fake news. They built a chrome extension called Fib which goes through the news feed, and scores it with “verified” or “not verified”.
The extension does web scrapping to find related links. The links are sent through and AI with a collection of API calls. The extension has got 50,000 downloads (which is a good sign) and the fact that the developers left the code open for enhancements is reassuring.
When USA is vulnerable to deceptions like this so is a country like ours. We will have to wait and find out what happens in 2019 General elections.