Some months ago I began cross-posting some of the things I write elsewhere to Facebook. I was interested in exploring the potential of social media as an opportunity for argumentation. I suppose this word (argumentation) might be foreign to many, but you might want to translate it as debate. This is essentially the notion that discussions can explore issues through processes that involve assertions, supporting assertions with facts/data, and taking on the assertions made by others through the same processes of counter-assertations and facts/data. I have long been a promoter of social media as a way to involve the public in important issues and thought rather than write for the audience I have I should take a more open approach.
I must say I have not been particularly impressed with what I have observed in Facebook. Few participants actually participate. There is mostly the linking of things folks have found online with little personal reflection or commentary. There tends to be little interaction and far less commentary at a deep level. I am not certain how to change this. I understanding that actually writing takes a good deal of effort, but without some effort I think little is accomplished.
Another issue I have noticed is the type of content people are willing to post. Again, I come from a tradition of argumentation based on sources (mostly in the scientific literature). I understand that many political issues are not based on formal sources, but so much of the content I see comes from sources of such poor reputation. It seems that some seek extreme examples and about the only way to do this is to promote content from extreme and sketchy sources.
My wife and I have discussed this issue often because of our common background in educational technology. She recommended that I recommend a site for evaluating the credibility of sources. Try this site (and read about their approach if you are concerned). There is a textbox at the top of the page that returns an evaluation of news sources – both bias and factual accuracy.
Bias and factual focus can be different things. Bias for some might be described as spin – how one tries to explain facts. Factual focus is really whether facts are even the basis for the content. I would interpret the notion of fake news as news that is not factually based. The site I recommend will indicate if a “news” source has promoted positions that are known be false.
Try sites you know and assume promote a spin – CNN, MSNBC, NPR (use National Public Radio), Wall Street Journal. You will note that these sites are all “centrist” with a bias (left, right). All are typically fact based. If you can, try some of the sources for the Facebook posts that seem extreme (if you can identify the source). My experience has been that such content is described as biased to a far greater degree than the sources I list above, but also rated as far more likely to promote false narratives. This is the type of information Facebook should add to any “sourced” content.
Facebook talks a good game about the promotion of false narratives but seems to be overly careful about taking practical actions that would allow authors and readers to acknowledge the credibility of their sources. You can do this for yourself.