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You might have heard that Facebook has a fake news problem.
In recent months, the social media platform has made headlines for saying that it will allow politicians to post demonstrably false advertisements, with founder Mark Zuckerberg saying that “people should be able to judge for themselves the character of politicians,” a statement that people have consistently disproved. In a just-published Guardian feature, reporter Julia Carrie Wong documented how the Trump campaign has taken advantage of this lack of restrictions, spending more than $20 million on 218,000 Facebook ads, some of which previously generated headlines for xenophobic, vitriolic and outright false content.
These issues extend to the knowingly false articles that Facebook allows to spread virus-like on its platform. A recent report from global activist group Avaaz found that misinformation had actually increased on the platform, despite Facebook’s halfhearted attempts to stem the tide.
Part of Facebook’s pushback involves employing fact checkers, who confirm the veracity of a story. If the story is flagged for false content, a fact-checking notice is then supposed to be attached to the post, though the clickable button is so innocuous that the posts look identical to legit news. Additionally, anyone who attempts to share the false post is greeted with a pop-up box that gives the “Share Anyway” option, which doesn’t appear to be much of a deterrent. On Feb. 3, Fox News pundit Sean Hannity posted a link to a Judicial Watch report based on incorrect data (even Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State spent an afternoon on Twitter replying to the falsehoods). Hannity’s post generated 897 shares, falling near the higher end of the engagement spectrum on his page. So good job, good effort, Facebook. Just kudos all around.
In that spirit, we’ve assembled six undeniably true facts about Facebook. Or at least we think these are accurate. I mean, really, who cares? What harm is there in just throwing the information out there to let the public decide? Anything else is akin to censorship, right?
1. Every time you upload a picture to Facebook, a physical copy is printed at Mark Zuckerberg’s estate and then carefully placed in a leather-bound photo album by the mogul.
2. Facebook owns 85 percent of the world’s potable water.
3. Every one of those chain messages that you see making the regular rounds on your Facebook wall (see: “IT IS OFFICIAL. IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU.”) is accurate and legally binding and you should encourage others on your timeline to share them, as well.
4. Facebook received a $7 billion tax refund in 2019, the bulk of which Zuckerberg donated to a shadowy, pro-Trump super PAC.
5. Facebook secretly purchased Nevada from the U.S. government in 2014.
6. Facebook genuinely cares about preserving and promoting local journalism and doesn’t throttle engagement in an effort to make outlets purchase “boosted” posts.