‘News stories are supposed to help ordinary voters understand the world around them. But in the 2016 election, news stories online too often had the opposite effect. Stories rocketed around the internet that were misleading, sloppily reported, or in some cases totally made up.
Over the course of 2016, Facebook users learned that the pope endorsed Donald Trump (he didn’t), that a Democratic operative was murdered after agreeing to testify against Hillary Clinton (it never happened), that Bill Clinton raped a 13-year-old girl (a total fabrication), and many other totally bogus “news” stories. Stories like this thrive on Facebook because Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes “engagement” — and a reliable way to get readers to engage is by making up outrageous nonsense about politicians they don’t like.
A big problem here is that the internet has broken down the traditional distinction between professional news-gathering and amateur rumor-mongering. On the internet, the “Denver Guardian” — a fake news site designed to look like a real Colorado newspaper — can reach a wide audience as easily as real news organizations like the Denver Post, the New York Times, and Fox News.
Since last week’s election, there has been a fierce debate about whether the flood of fake news — much of it prejudicial to Hillary Clinton — could have swung the election to Donald Trump. Internet giants are coming under increasing pressure to do something about the problem…’