The Facebook Issue(s): this week on Fresh Powder

The Cool Kid

Facebook is America’s favorite social media platform, and it’s not just by a little bit. In fact, we Americans love our newsfeeds so much that we interact with them in numbers at least one and half times greater than the volume of people who watch the Super Bowl in any given year. And we do it every. Single. Day. But we can’t help it: our country’s collective consciousness is utterly intoxicated by Facebook’s just-for-you-because-you’re-special algorithms, even in spite of the fact that, well, facts (that is, truthful, accurate,vetted news-facts) have nothing to do with it.

Facebook the Facts

You probably saw at least one of them last week: “news” articles claiming that Obama issued an executive order for a vote recount or that Pope Francis endorsed Trump for president. The fake articles were all over Facebook newsfeeds and they were being shared over and over again, aiding the media sensationalism that was so pervasive in this election cycle. So, did Facebook have a responsibility to fact check stories circulating on it’s platform? And how much responsibility should the social media outlet take for the outcome of the presidential election by allowing the rapid proliferation of fake news? Or, do we just want something to blame for last week? Facebook is finding itself at the center of the roiling storm of post-election anger and confusion, and it’s finding out that being the most popular kid on the playground isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds.

Brought to you by

It’s only natural that as America’s premier social media platform and a lead purveyor of news both fake and real, Facebook should take on the responsibility of shaping of tomorrow’s journalists: now you can get trained on using Facebook for journalism, by Facebook. The first free, online course featured Facebook Live and was released on November 3rd. As much as Zuckerberg would love to maintain a hands-in-the-air, we-just-provide-the-platform stance, it’s clear that Facebook executives are recognizing the site as the powerful media sharing outlet it is, and are taking some initiative in service of journalism. We think.

About Face(book)

At least it only took a little viral public shaming to get Facebook to decide to stop being terrible. The social media platform had been allowing advertisers to target ads to specific groups based on algorithmically derived “ethnic affinities.” But afterProPublica exposed the practice, Facebook decided that sanctioning racism isn’t cool, and has stopped offering the option for housing and employment ads. We forgive you Facebook, at least you learned. Now, with your broad, almost reckless reach, do us a favor and remind America that racism isn’t cool, no matter what the president-elect says.

This also happened last week:

We lost Gwen Ifill yesterday and it feels bad. But the PBS news anchor’s legacy will remain a powerful example of journalistic integrity, courage and strength, and we’ll keep on keeping on, in her honor. In better news, Brendan Dassey, whose story broke all our hearts when he was convicted for murder along with uncle Steven Avery (Netflix’ documentary, Making a Murderer, investigated the case), will be released from prison today. So we have that.