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January 22, 2015
Facebook Stands Up for the 'News'
 

We thank Payne Public Relations for alerting us to another junction in the fadeout of reliable print news sources – Facebook’s approach to handling spurious news reports on its timelines. PR people need to know these things.  

Payne notes a Pew Research study that half of Facebook and Twitter users get news on those sites, where it’s likely an “incidental” experience. Incidental or not, news ought to be accurate and, thankfully, Facebook is mindful of that. Thus the social network has taken to “adding an annotation to” (labelling,  however faintly) posts that “people have reported as hoaxes.”

There was recently, for example, a post claiming that “Scientists Demonstrate Irrefutably the Existence of Santa Claus.” When enough viewers flagged it (bless ‘em), Facebook added a faint line above the post noting that “Many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information.”

“Posts that receive lots of reports will be annotated with a message warning people that many others on Facebook have reported it,”  advised Facebook software engineer Erich Owens and research scientist Udi Weinsberg. Thus is this new city desk declaring its values. 

Again, PR people need to be mindful of such matters. The credibility of the news media – that is, places where people assemble to be reliably informed – is their lifeline. Think it’s fading? Not with Facebook on guard. 

“We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy,” the Facebook “editors” noted. Just labelling crowdsourced tripe. For that’s what the new Facebook editing process amounts to.  


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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