Time for us all to tackle lies epidemic as Facebook promises action

Time for us all to tackle lies epidemic as Facebook promises action

Facebook, as it comes under mounting criticism, has promised to do more to tackle hoax stories in the wake of scrutiny following the US election result.

Although it seems a bit after the horse has bolted, it’s high time this issue started being flagged up, because the amount of lies and propaganda being spread throughout the world has hit epidemic levels.

Traditional media like newspapers and magazines have been virtually abandoned in recent years and the vast majority of people now use social media to get their information and news-for example 62 per cent in the US, and this hoax issue should be seen as a real concern.

Looking at our own Facebook feed over the past 24 hours we have noted a re-hashed speech from the Pope has appeared on our feed stating that he feared this coming Christmas could be the last for mankind following the Trump election victory, and also a short YouTube documentary also being shared showing how the Pentagon had been hit by a cruise missile rather than a plane in the 9/11 attacks. Both shared by Facebook friends neither stand up to scrutiny.

As a communications agency with knowledge and experience of traditional and new media we believe it is disturbing the lack of safeguards in social media.

The reason is despite the old anecdotes that newspapers are full of rubbish etc, generally they are not.

In the vast majority of cases, newspapers have to make sure stories are ‘watertight,’ or they risk being sued, so they try to ensure sources are 100 per cent legitimate and if there is any doubt stories are usually dropped.

Knowing plenty of journalists on national newspapers and having spoken about this, they try to adhere to the same moral code.

Of course, though there are incidents when this has not happened, but the Press Complaints Commission are there to intervene when things goes wrong. It’s not perfect, but better than what the web currently offers.

Now mistruths can be made up and spread across the world in seconds and the alarming thing is that many people don’t question the legitimacy of the source.

Okay, Facebook is being questioned now, but it’s the same for all social media. All it needs is a hoax story, someone sharing and before you know where you are there’s a percentage of people who make an audience ready to lap it up.

Social media’s lack of policing is every bit as evident here in the UK as was demonstrated in the run up to Brexit. We witnessed content early on which we filtered out that was completely off the scale for pure spreading of hatred.

It was full of photos which could have be taken anywhere and then a caption added. For instance; “Look at this Romanian rapist he has been given a 4 bedroom house worth £600,000 in North London.” Press share if you think this is wrong.

As we all try to make sense of what has happened in 2016 and there’s a lot to take in, regardless of where you stand politically, we all owe it to ourselves not to be fooled any more. However, we doubt we’ll meet much resistance on this view with those who read this article. It’s the more susceptible in our society who really need to know this, but sadly this message won’t be on their radar.

Lies and conspiracy theories are spreading like never before via social media and until the bodies that be assemble together to attempt to put a block on these, we all need to be more discerning about where we get our news.

At least try to see if any of the recognised media outlets like newspapers or broadcasters like Sky or the BBC has run the story before pressing share.

Social media has helped us connect and has on the whole been a positive development in terms of our ability to communicate but this is the flip side.

We can never know the whole truth about everything and we have to have an element of trust in others – be it our government, employers or whoever else, whilst also questioning their actions and motives.

Facebook say they will take action on hoax stories, but in the wild west of cyberspace it’s all our jobs to be responsible and professional for the time being at least.

We all need to be vigilant for the sake of humanity as dumbing down has, unfortunately hit a new low.