Commentary

Malicious Fake News On Facebook? Thanks For The Tip!

The massive popularity of Facebook also magnifies every misstep. Because Facebook is ridiculously successful, its mistakes have a giant impact.

Like this: Facebook’s attempt to direct users away from fake news — by warning them the thing they are being directed to view is very possibly not true — is having the opposite effect.

Just like any 13-year old is going to do anything to view something is labeled “adults only,” many Facebook users are eager to look at crap that has been labeled as crap, just to see how crappy it really is. Also, people who have a desire to see and then redistribute malicious crappy content must view Facebook’s warnings as a handy kind of tool.

A site published a fake story that said during the 1600s, hundreds of thousands of Irish people were rounded up and sent to America as slaves. Facebook flagged it as “disputed,” says a story by the Guardian.

That turned out to be quite an endorsement.  

“A bunch of conservative groups grabbed this and said, ‘Hey, they are trying to silence this blog – share, share share,’” said the editor of the site that ran the story about the slaves. “With Facebook trying to throttle it and say, ‘Don’t share it,’ it actually had the opposite effect.”

The newspaper says its own investigation of Facebook’s attempt to protect users from malicious or just plain false posts is regularly ineffective. In some cases, it appears to have minimal impact. That could be--I mean, it probably is--because Facebook doesn’t always remove stories that it finds fishy. It just warns people, which for some, is like an invitation to view or read a lie, and then pass it along.

Indeed, says the Guardian, most the stories that get slapped with a warning on Facebook have already gone viral. Facebook, for its part, says the warnings--which began in March after complaints about fake news--have reduced traffic to those stories.

Facebook’s goof ups, of course, extend to advertising. If to err is human, than Facebook has proved to be very, very human as history has demonstrated.

On Tuesday, Facebook’s blog confessed it had just noticed a bug that misattributed some ad actions in a way that cost advertisers money because they were charged for actions consumers didn’t actually do. It was a small error as advertising billing errors go.

Facebook said: “The impact from a billing perspective was 0.04% of ads impressions.” But from another perspective, it was another mistake, another apology.

Here’s what happened. Facebook billed some advertisers on its carousel unit when customers simply clicked on a video to enlarge it. Facebook counted that as a consumer clicking through to the advertiser’s site. If the advertiser was indeed paying for link clicks, the client was being bilked, though not deliberately.

That sounds bad enough, but really, Facebook said, it was a little mistake. It only occurred to smartphone users, for one. Second, it only happened to smartphone users who accessed Facebook through their mobile Web browser on their phones, rather than using the Facebook app, which is how the vast majority of mobile users administer their fix of Facebook.

And third, it only happened to advertisers on the video carousel that bid on link clicks, also a pretty small group.

But still. . .

pjbednarski@comcast.net

@pjbtweet
1 comment about "Malicious Fake News On Facebook? Thanks For The Tip!".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 17, 2017 at 7:29 p.m.

    b.j.: You know, you can't fix stupid especially with facts and rationality.

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