Fake news is hardly a new concept, but it became one of the most talked about subjects of 2017—one of this year’s buzzwords, if you will. Despite being as old as news itself, most likely, it was dragged into the public spotlight this year because of questions about whether fake news could have impacted the 2016 presidential election, in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
There is now good reason to believe that fake news stories played a key role in voters’ decisions last November, and there is even evidence that some of the most impactful stories were created and initially disseminated by foreign interests. Famously, it has come to light that a good deal of anti-Clinton fake news stories originated in Russia.
But what does all this have to do with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of the world’s top social network, Facebook? Well, if you spend any time on the internet at all, you are aware that many people get news information from social media sites, especially Facebook. Facebook’s newsfeed is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to spread a news story across the planet, regardless of whether or not it is true. And it’s for this reason that Zuckerberg has been given the dubious honor of being named 2017’s Misinformer of the Year by the progressive group Media Matters.
Why Media Matters chose Zuckerberg for Misinformer of the Year award
In the past, this award has been given to right-wing media personalities like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, but Media Matters took a different approach this year. Instead of focusing on the talking heads covering these fake news stories, they took a look at how the fake news phenomenon was happening in the first place. As you may have guessed, this led them to Facebook, everyone’s favorite way to “share” anything from baby pictures to trending news articles.
To his credit, Zuckerberg has reconsidered his viewpoint on Facebook’s potential influence on the spread of misinformation. After the initial backlash, he said that calling the idea of his site changing the outcome of the presidential election crazy was dismissive, adding, “This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”
Changes have been made to Facebook’s newsfeed in what is presumably an attempt to curb the spread of fake news, but Media Matters argues that it’s not enough, saying that the actions the company has taken could best be considered a PR effort to save face, rather than taking “a deeper systemic and underlying approach.”