Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Make Facebook Great Again.

Facebook is under more scrutiny than usual, and rightly so. The social network behemoth found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time to some extent. As the incredible cascade of media noise around the US presidential election peaked, Facebook in turn became the single biggest media delivery source on the planet Earth. At a time when it could have done a World of good, Facebook instead was a major purveyor in the worst kind of misinformation seen perhaps ever in Human history.


These statements are made entirely apolitically, by the way. I am a left leaning centrist personally, however I am not solely alluding to the deluge of right wing, fake articles that did the rounds on Facebook in the run up to November 8th. I acknowledge fully there were also fake liberal articles designed clumsily to do the same as their right leaning counterparts. Independent reviews have found that as many as 38% of the news articles on Facebook were fake right wing articles, with 16% leaning left. 

The fact is, Facebook has a big problem. Whether it likes it or not it is a massive media giant, and with that should come some responsibility. Instead, the Facebook board is essentially running around watching the flames build, putting its hands over its ears and singing loudly ‘there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong!’.

What exactly is the problem? In short, various groups are hijacking Facebook with landslides of fake news articles, and vast swathes of Facebook’s community of users are falling for it hook, line and sinker. News stories such as ‘How Hillary Funded Assassination Of American Soldiers In Iraq’ have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares and interactions on Facebook. Months ago, well before the election, you might recall Facebook attempted to do something about this, and their editorial team started to remove some of the crazier articles. As noted, the majority of the crazy is right wing (shocker!) and therefore most of the deleted articles were right wing. Cue the uproar from the right wing community, ‘Facebook is preventing us from free speech!’

It’s important to keep in mind what we’re talking about here, these articles are absolute trash and many are being housed on fake newspapers such as the Denver Guardian, or the Boston Gazette, and being created in placed as far flung as Macedonia, where young college kids are building them to collect Google advertising money from stupid Americans clicking on their bait. That’s literally what’s happening.

The right made such a noise defending these trash ‘articles’ that Facebook panicked, and, seriously, fired their entire editorial team. Yes, fired them, security escorting them off the premises.

Why is all this happening? A clue to the motivation behind Facebook’s moves (or lack of) is the involvement in powerful billionaire Peter Thiel. You might remember him as the individual who had a personal vendetta against the Gawker media empire, and who financed Hulk Hogan’s ultimately successful legal battle against them. Thiel recently poured millions into the GOP presidential campaign, and has made no secret of this right wing leaning. In fact, he revels in it and is obviously starting to exert some serious pressure on the Facebook board to ensure it doesn’t become ‘too left’ leaning.

What are we left with? A stream of endless ‘Hillary killed my husband’ and ‘Hillary worships the devil’ articles lapped up by the less intelligent among us.

What can you, the average Facebook user, do?

The answer, as with most everything, is to look within and take accountability for your own space. We can whine and complain as long and as often as we like, but the fact of the matter is we are (generally) not helpless beings without the ability to enforce change in front of us. Quite the contrary. We can mold everything around us, including Facebook. You can complain all day long about the way Facebook does things, but, it’s a service, and it’s up to you to use it the way you want.

First things first, trim your Friends, no matter how painful. The election provided me insight into a couple of unsavory characters on my list. I have plenty of friends with right and center views that I respect immensely. Good people. I also had a couple of absolute clowns hiding in the weeds, thankfully the election reminded me, I don’t have to listen to certain people. Delete, delete, delete. You don’t owe a single person your Facebook space. Delete.


Secondly, curate your newsfeed appropriately. I spent some time a while ago ensuring I was, generally, following responsible and accountable journalistic sites. A tip; https:\\ImpeachClinton\Right_wing.org is probably not going to be accountable journalism, so you might want to go ahead and unfollow that. It’s quite simple to garden your Facebook weeds to the point where you are seeing a feed that’s at least close to what you’re looking for.

Third, when you are clicking on a link that looks suspiciously slanted (either way, left or right), think twice. There’s a massive difference in reading a well-researched, accountable article with associated journalistic standards, and reading click bait crap that’s designed simply to outrage you. There’s a very good reason the GOP went to great lengths recently to throw insults at levels not heard since Pol Pot at the media. Trump and his cronies didn’t want their lemmings reading The Washington Post, the New York Times or The Guardian. They didn’t want their pawns reading journalists who paid due diligence to their reporting, who researched their articles and exhibited journalistic integrity when producing their content. They wanted a riled-up mob reading right wing gutter press, where facts are few and integrity is nonexistent.

You simply owe it to yourself to stick to proper journalism. Why waste your valuable time reading some garbage, presented to you with the sole aim of getting you all hot and bothered, and, not in a good way?

When you complain about Facebook the fact is you're really commenting on how you, yourself, use Facebook. Like everything in life, you can mold Facebook to be exactly what you want it to be. Just a little fine tuning (stop clicking dumb article links, and whatever you do, don't click on the ads!) and you can enjoy a simple, easy to use and free social network relatively hassle free.

Do it. Make Facebook great again.



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Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

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