Taking Real Action on Fake News

Over the past year, we’ve heard the term “fake news” more than ever before—whether it’s mentioned in the political realm or casually around the dinner table,  fake news is a factual problem. However, in recent real news, Facebook announced that it’s taking a stand to stop falsehoods that trickle through its powerhouse platform.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it is banning advertisers from altering news headlines after The Wall Street Journal contacted the organization and pointed out examples of companies that had altered news stories to benefit their own marketing goals. This comes after an announcement made last June, in which Facebook said it would prevent its users from modifying news article headlines, descriptions and images when posting links, as part of a broader push to stop the spread of false or misleading information.

However, companies on Facebook still had the ability to share news stories and alter their “link previews” through Facebook’s ad platform. The Journal found examples of how marketers had used this tactic to subtly reposition press coverage about certain companies or products. (In many cases the changes didn’t appear drastic, and the advertisers said they were meant to enhance clarity, not mislead readers.)

An example: This Casper mattress Facebook post in which Casper portrays that it is “revolutionizing” the way individuals sleep by sharing a positive media article. However, the article’s headline reads, “I bought a bed from the Target-backed ‘Warby Parker of mattresses’ and I’ll never buy one in stores again.” Notably missing? A mention of Casper “revolutionizing” anything. #InsertPuzzledFaceEmoji

Whether these companies really meant to or not is beside the point – they misrepresented work from reputable news sources. We stand with these news organizations and agree with Facebook’s new policy. And, while kudos should be given to Facebook for taking this action of restricting other companies from taking these little liberties, some might ask, “Aren’t they a little late?”

Fake news stories are easily spread through Facebook. Remember the Pope endorsing Trump’s candidacy? False. Obama signing an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools? Also false. Yet, both of those stories were shared on Facebook by the millions. People who receive their news through Facebook are subjected to – and more likely to be persuaded by – more fake news stories every day than those who consume it through more credible news organizations.

And, a lot of people get their news from Facebook. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, two-thirds of Facebook’s 207 million American users get news from their daily feeds. That’s a ton of fake news reaching millions of people, every single day.

Clearly, there is a need for the social world to crack down on the fake news epidemic, starting with altered headlines. Bearing some of the responsibility, Facebook is putting guidelines in place to reduce the spread of false information to protect its brand and to ensure those who use Facebook are being fed factually accurate information.

What’s Next?

The main job of advertisers is to position a brand, promote it, and get consumers to buy its products or services. Now that they will be saying “adios” to editing Facebook content, companies’ communications teams need to start building an internal content management system to feature their brands or products in a positive light.

One way to revolutionize this concept is through a “newsHUB” section on your company’s website—a place to share your company’s expertise in more compelling formats like short stories, videos, photos and testimonials with consumers, reporters, clients and employees. It allows your organization to share success stories, highlight innovations, and introduce audiences to its all-star staff and products. Plus, if your brand is producing the content, you can guarantee that its messages are delivered factually and accurately.

Interested in adding a “newsHUB” to your website or learning more about implementing a content management strategy? We can help! Drop us a note at resteasy@devinepartners.com.

 

We are Devine + Partners, communications and content experts who specialize in public relations, issues management (crisis communications), content marketing and digital communications.

Full archive