Jeff Jarvis, the media watcher with whom I rarely agree, hits it squarely on the head today in his Medium.com piece urging caution over an uprising against Facebook and its promotion of “fake news” sites (here’s a list of some of them).
Jarvis, a journalist, asks whether we really want Facebook, or anyone else, to start being a censor?
Facebook isn’t a media company, he argues. It’s a connection machine.
“We are concentrating on the wrong end of this,” he writes. “There will always be fake news, lies, and politicians and they will go together. It’s our job to make true news and nurture it.”
Let me get this out of the way first: There is fake news in mainstream media, too. The campaign surrogates on cable news spewed gallons of fakery and the networks hired them to do it. I will argue that The New York Times email story against Hillary Clinton was fake news — and certainly its use to feed false balance against each of Trump’s sins was faked. So was the AP story and tweet about her foundation. But you may take what I say with a grain of salt because I am a liberal and a Clinton partisan — just as Trump voters and the right take The Times, The Post, CNN, and the rest of MSM with a salt lick: as fake. So be careful before you decide that whatever anyone could call fake should be banned.
Beware then what you wish for Facebook to do with fake news. Do we really want to set up Facebook or Google as the censors of the world? Do we want them to decide what is real and fake, true and false? Do we want to imagine Mark Zuckerberg staying up all night because someone is wrong on the internet — err, on Facebook? Of course, we don’t. Zuckerberg doesn’t want that either.
Instead of complaining, journalists should be bringing “value to the conversations that now occur without us. Instead of mourning the creation of fake-news memes and putting the onus on Facebook to kill them (again: do we really want that?) we should be pouring out our own truth memes — with facts, fact-checking, context, explanation, education, reporting, watch-dogging: journalism, in short.”
And talking to people on blogs and social networks instead of just throwing content out there for the page views and expecting people to accept it. Good journalism in 2016 needs to be defended and explained in the sphere.
He didn’t say that part. I did.
Related: Here are all the fake ‘news’ sites to watch out for on Facebook (Daily Dot)