TechCrunch reported Friday that Facebook is now “shrinking” what it deems to be fake news in people’s News Feeds. This means that any article that Facebook fact checks and finds to be false will be reduced to just a text headline with no image, abutted by “related” fact-checking content that contracts it.
Facebook is allegedly trying this out because simply putting fact checks next to stories that don't pass a basic reality check aren't hurting them enough. It’s important to consider here that Facebook’s News Feed is already a highly curated experience. Only a small percentage of what gets posted by all of one’s Facebook friends or brands one likes actually gets through to the News Feed.
You haven’t actually received a firehose of everything everyone posts in years, at this point. But rather than crank the fake-news dial all the way down and taking the posts out, Facebook is allowing them to remain, taking it from an 11 to an 8.5.
But is the fake news small enough? Could it be smaller? Can we make some suggestions? How about this?
Better yet, what if Facebook had two feeds, a News Feed and then a Fake News Feed one could separately visit in order to find out what’s happening on an alternate plane of reality? Wouldn’t fake news, after all, be best as a holistic immersion experience rather than drips and drabs inserted into an otherwise factual list of stories?
Of course the real issue with fake news is not that people are truly mistaken about what is factually true or false, and Facebook is indulging an apologist, credulous fantasy to suggest that people who believe in things like welfare queens or Obama’s lack of U.S. citizenship or a child porn ring operated out of a pizza parlor are simply confused. As a research paper from February suggested, people are particularly disinclined to consider the potential harm of what they share online, and sensational fake news travels faster. Maybe Facebook’s positioning will work, but so long as we are identifying what’s fake, it’s unclear why it needs to be surfaced at all.