It may seem that we sometimes pick on Facebook. Truth is, Facebook is a convenient metaphor for many of the societal issues that, in general, social media has conjured up. Being the largest social networking site has it’s disadvantages.
We’ve been thinking lately about how social media is changing many aspects of our lives, and we think that considering how social media influences how we consume news and information bears our consideration with a critical eye. Because, as we all know, social networking platforms use complex algorithms to make serious decisions about what we see. Having said that, although algorithms may come across as complex but, they are created by people.
When it comes to news and information, our society is built upon a theoretical foundation of a free and objective press – and questions about journalistic integrity definitely pre-date social media. But in a healthy free society, shouldn’t we expect that historical norms are at least a consideration in the information we count on to make personal judgments?
As Farhad Manjoo points out in New York Time, social media in general, and Facebook specifically, have an outsize influence on users’ consumption of information – even without any sinister intent. But the absence of sinister intent is not necessarily the presence of good intent. And unconscious bias, both personal and institutional, puts the integrity of what we see in question. Complacency is as much the enemy of freedom as dictatorial influence.
The recent announcement about Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm changes has made some content producers (and marketers) wary, as usual. Good! Because if you’re relying on social media platforms to make it easy for you, then you have to learn a lot about communication and content production erc.
Here is the primary ‘bias’ of Facebook (and Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.): PROFIT! The missing link here, as Ehsan Khodarahmi has mentioned quite a lot of times is: PURPOSE. He says: do business with a purpose beyond profit.
So if we’re looking to these companies’ leaders, product managers and engineers to be thinking deeply about the ethics of disseminating objective information to their (by the way, subscribed) members, maybe we should think again. It seems that we, as individual consumers, and the collective ‘we’, as a society built on the expectation of an objective press, have grown lazy and are willing to turn over control of our access to information to seemingly unwilling stewards.
Does Facebook claim itself a news organization? Not really, according to their own statements. But it’s complicated. ‘Instant Articles’ feature content from major news sources like The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times. And according to another recent article by Mr. Manjoo, ‘The Pew Research Center found that for adults in their 20s and 30s, Facebook is far and away the most popular source of news about government and politics.’
Some of the worst atrocities in history were the result of societies giving over their sacred rights in the name of some greater powerful force. We should all be wary of how social media treats the news and information that we rely on to make our personal choices and judgments.
Now let’s stuck in folks of #SMXChat village:
Q1: What are the dangers/benefits of social media gaining power over news dissemination?
Q2: Why should/not a giant media source like Facebook be empowered as a public trust, like giving us news?
Q3: How might social media promulgate information without influencing editorial content?
Q4: Public companies are biased toward profit. What are social media platforms’ obligations to ‘journalistic integrity’?
Q5: Should social media be transparent about editorial decisions in distributing news? What ethics apply to their role?