Will Your Posts Get Hoax-Flagged Due to the Mob?

lies photo
Image by Toban B.

When I first read that Facebook, and others, would start adding a bit to the algorithm to try and eliminate scams, and other false information, from my newsfeed I was excited about it. How many times have I logged into Facebook and seen dozens of falsehoods like the claim of copyright status, or ridiculous news stories, and other outright lies? More than I care to count, unfortunately. So I thought, good, maybe if Facebook started flagging things as untrue, people could go ahead and stop spreading them!

But then I read the details on how things will get flagged:

Social Media Giants Adopt “Mob Rule” Tactics

As stated in Facebook’s announcement this past week, “Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook. We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy.”

So basically, if you post a link to a story, blog post, video, picture, etc. and enough people decide they don’t like the content, it can be flagged as a hoax, with no determination as to whether the context is truthful or not. That sounds like an invitation to gather up a social media mob and flag things you don’t like as a hoax.

Don’t like to hear the truth about how not vaccinating kids puts society at risk? Hit the anti-vax forums and stir up enough people to get a post marked as a hoax! Don’t like a certain political or religious view? Same deal! Heck, if a study comes out that maybe shows something that doesn’t match up with your worldview? Hoax! Fraud! Get it flagged so everyone can see it’s not true, even if it is true.

And don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, we’ve seen people have their Twitter account suspended because a mob formed and started flagging their profile as spam, just because they didn’t agree with their ideas. The unintended consequences of crowd sourcing this sort of thing inside the public marketplace of ideas is that it turns into an invitation to bullying. Which is ironic, since many of the mobs form because they feel someone expressing an opinion that doesn’t match their own is also bullying. (It’s not, grow up!)

Just remember, being part of the mob is a great way to feel passionate and self-righteous about yourself, until they come for you. And they will, eventually.

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  1. Wikipedia has the same sort of problem, without even any malice needed (just mass ignorance) – changes to articles made by *real* experts on a topic are shouted down by “common knowledge”

    1. I know there have been a few flareups of that sort on Wikipedia, but from the outside looking in, and maybe I’m wrong about this, there does seem to be someone at Wikipedia willing to take a look when that happens and make a judgement call. Facebook has pretty much come out and say that they aren’t reviewing the truthfulness of links flagged as hoaxes at all. To me that’s just openly inviting people to do it! 😉

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