I know it’s been a while since I last blogged. I had been waiting for the right topic to inspire a post. This weekend, it occurred.
While browsing Facebook, a post appeared in my feed because a few friends shared it. It was an image shared by “David Schwimer” announcing the return of the popular show, “Friends”, for one more season on NBC in 2018. Although I was a big fan of friends while it was airing, I thought this announcement was too good to be true. So I clicked through to “David Schwimer’s” Facebook page and noticed that the profile’s first activity was Friday evening at 5:16 pm, when the profile picture was updated. The “Friends” announcement was then posted at 5:18 pm.
Those are the only two posts on the page.
After seeing this, I knew the announcement was fake. But not everyone did the same digging and came to the same conclusion. People were honestly falling for this piece of fake news. (To date, the Facebook post has 221k reactions, 411k comments and 307k shares. The post has been up for nearly 3 days.) But really, how could they not? At a first quick glance (the standard 3 seconds or less for social media users), it appears to be a real post announcing a new season of the show. 3 or less seconds is all it takes for someone to like, comment or share on Facebook – only increasing a post’s popularity and feed frequency.
Curious to see if anyone has reported on it, I Googled and came across an article from BuzzFeed also outlining additional flaws with the fake news Facebook post:
- “Firstly, the page is named David Schwimer and NOT David Schwimmer, which is actually how you spell his name
- Secondly, the URL has Ross Gheler in it, which, again, is incorrect”
This still does not stop people from spreading this fake show announcement all over Facebook and encouraging more people to fall for it. While I know this type of fake news is not as extreme as others that have occurred, it’s a classic example of how posts can grow and mislead Facebook users.
Why hasn’t Facebook taken extreme measures to help fix their fake news issue? They are the largest social platform with the most active users – what happens on their platform has an offline impact. Yes, AR & VR are cool and exciting, but I think Facebook should be addressing current platform concerns rather than creating new features (where more issues may potentially arise).
Here are some of my recommendations and thoughts on a few new Facebook features that could be implemented:
- Feature the Verified Badge in News Feed: This feature seems simple enough. Twitter does it, why can’t Facebook? Listing the blue check mark next to the verified brand/celebrity account in the News Feed could potentially help fake posts from spreading, like the scenario above.
- Prevent Brand, Publisher & Celebrity Name Duplicates for Pages, Unless Verified: In the “Friends” 2018 announcement, David Schwimmer’s name was actually spelled incorrectly so it may not have helped here. But could a page naming process/scanning somehow be implemented?
- Develop a Fake News Submission Site or Feature: Currently, users can report a post to Facebook but the tool is hidden in each post and can be used for various forms of content. I’m requesting a separate, dedicated area just for fake news. This would require additional staff members to comb through all of the content submissions that they may receive – but could help Facebook track fake news issues a lot quicker.
- Create a Verified Network of News/Publishers Pages: Now this one might be impossible/difficult and sounds a bit extreme, but what if Facebook independently verified each news network and publisher’s Facebook page – perhaps they could receive a different form of verified badge, instead of the blue check mark? Implementing a somewhat similar feature helps add on a layer of trust for the user before clicking on a website link or sharing a photo.
In just a few minutes, I brainstormed a couple of approaches that Facebook could take. Maybe Facebook is doing the same, but what is taking them so long to implement and why aren’t they discussing this matter at conferences like F8?
Until an update occurs, Facebook will continue to have fake stories like the “Friends” announcement – so scroll, share and comment with caution! (You’ve been warned.)
Do you have any features or processes in mind? I’d love to hear about them – feel free to tweet me at @iamsolberg!