Posted by: samanthastrain19 | November 6, 2017

The New York Times, Guardian, and Washington Post Continue to Critique Social Media’s Role in Spreading and Responding to Fake News

The New York Times (Wakabayashi & Qiu, 17 Oct 2017) and Guardian (Levin, 2 Oct 2017) articles about Facebook and Google spreading fake news similarly referenced the idea that these companies appear to resist accepting responsibility for their roles in this issue, frequently giving vague promises to creating solutions. David Carrol (Wakabayashi & Qui, 17 Oct 2017), a professor at the Parson School of Design, suggests that ultimately these companies don’t know enough about the people purchasing advertisements, insinuating that it comes down to the revenue these companies receive for such advertisements.

The Washington Post published an article following the Senate Hearing of Facebook, Google, and Twitter (Borchers, 1 Nov 2017). The article provides further examples of the ideas expressed in the New York Times and Guardian articles. None of the CEOs showed to the hearing and sent lawyers instead. It also appeared that not much preparation was done, as many questions went unanswered and some responses were very vague or unclear. In a program where we address the importance of authenticity in communication, it really seems to me that these companies’ actions in response to fake news is anything but authentic. I do wonder, if these companies were not making money off such stories, if their future actions would seem more sincere. Additionally, as private companies with different intentions than traditional media, can they even be held responsible if they are merely providing the platform to share content created by individuals expressing rights to free speech and creativity?

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Responses

  1. The questions at the end of this post are very interesting, and something I don’t think we explored fully in class. The two salient points as I see them are 1) that Facebook, Google, et al, do not *create* the content in question, they *host* it. They essentially provide links to content that others have created, and distribute it. In this way, they are more analogous to newspaper boys than newspaper owners. They get paid to bring the content to your doorstep, but are hands-off in it’s tone, creation, and content. These services are platforms and curators, more like movie theaters than movie studios, to use a different analogy.

    So then the question is, what are the platforms’ responsibilities, legally and morally, for what people put on that platform? To use a less incendiary example, should services like WordPress or Dropbox be held liable for what users share on those services? Is what Google and Facebook do fundamentally different because the services aren’t free? I thought this article on what it means from a legal angle to link to other’s content online (which is maybe the most similar addressed legal situation to what I believe FB, Google, etc are doing) was thought-provoking for me: thoughtco.com/legalities-of-linking-3468972


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