The Cyber-Cave

Reflections on the political, technological, cultural and economic trends of the world

Fake news


According to PewResearch 40% of American Adults use Facebook for reading news.
For the first time, on December 2016 Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook is a media company. In August the Facebook editors of the news feed were replaced by an algorithm as complaints were made about possible rightwing news censorship. However the algorithm failed to discern ‘real’ news from ‘fake’ news. After the accusations of Facebook not doing enough to oppose the ‘fake’ news during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Facebook has now began to work with the major media outlets and independent organisations (plus users’ contribution) to do fact-checking before allowing a ‘fake’ news to appear in the news feed.
News that do not pass the fact-checking procedure will be labelled ‘disputed’, and the users will be told the reasons of such decision.
Disputed stories will also receive a lower priority in the news feed algorithm.
Facebook is going to help Germany with a ‘fake’ news filtering ahead of the 2017 elections.
A similar collaboration will occur between Facebook and France. Twitter will also prevent ‘abusive’ users from creating multiple accounts. For instance Twitter in July 2016 banned Milo Yiannopoulos. Twitter will also make ‘low-quality’ or ‘abusive’ content less visible and harder to find.

Facebook will also abandon the personalised functionality of the trending topics (the danger of this was the ‘filter bubble’- that is users constantly reading content already aligning with what they believe). Users in the same region will now see the same stories. The stories that come up depend on a variety of factors; however the novelty is that the criteria for showing up stories will not depend just on users’ engagement, but also on the engagement among media outlets.

One possible concern, for libertarians and hardcore believers in free speech, is the possibility of censorship.
Another concern is the fact that major media outlets will be involved in the fact-checking- though mainstream media itself in the past has not been exempt from the accusation of ‘fake news’ (such as Judith Miller’s inaccurate articles in the NYT on Iraq’s WMDs, former CNN journalist Amber Lyon accused CNN of doing positive coverage for countries with bad human rights record after receiving payments)

In February 2017 the Wikipedia editors have voted in favour of banning the use of the ‘Daily Mail’ as a source for Wikipedia articles.

The following are the ‘best’ fake news in history:


-British officials fabricated a story that widely circulated in the British press claiming that the Germans had a corpse factory to extract glycerine, oils, fats (or anything that could be later used as food) out of dead soldiers.
This fake news was also published in the English-language North China Daily News to create an anti-German sentiment so that China would join the Allied forces in WWI.

-A ridiculous story suggested that Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán had declared war on ISIS


-#PizzaGate: a conspiracy theory according to which top members of the Democratic were running a child-trafficking network in a pizza restaurant.
-The claim that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump during the Presidential elections. This bogus claim came from a satirical website called ‘WTOE 5 news’. These sort of websites make money with web-adverts.
-The claim that Fox News had fired Megyn Kelly because she supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid (this news was in the Facebook’s trending topic for a few hours, until it was removed)

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