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Are Social Media Platforms Responsible for Spreading Fake News?

Khadija Boufous Khadija Boufous
25th January 2022
Are Social Media Platforms Responsible for Spreading Fake News?
Twitter has launched many tools to combat fake news (Getty).

Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.

Recently, the Brazilian top electoral authority, TSE, has discussed banning the Telegram messaging app during the run-up to October elections because it has not responded to requests regarding combating the spread of fake news.

The head of the TSE electoral court, Luis Roberto Barroso, wanted to meet with Telegram executive director and founder Pavel Durov to discuss the process of combating the spread of fake news. But, according to Reuters, Telegram messaging app, which is the second most popular messaging platform in Brazil, does not have a representative office in the South American country.

Luis Roberto Barroso said in a statement that the electoral court has already signed partnerships with almost all the social media platforms to combat the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories. He also mentioned that Telegram did not respond to the requests while 53% of smartphones in Brazil use the app.

Earlier in January 2022, according to The Brazilian Report, many hashtags appeared on social media trends in Brazil to accuse Twitter of supporting fake news and being negligent against misinformation. Activists and journalists have called out the platform for its carelessness and said that it does not offer an option for misinformation reporting and does not grant verification seals to accounts known for spreading fake news.

Twitter has launched many tools to combat fake news. One of these features, Birdwatch, was created in 2020 as a fact-checking program that allows users to fact-check tweets and leave notes. The notes will be visible on the Birdwatch platform, not the social media app, where users can also rate the submitted notes. However, at the time of writing this blog, the Birdwatch is only available in the United States.

In October 2021, Russia threatened that it would block access to YouTube if the platform would not lift its ban on two Russian-affiliated German-speaking channels for breaching YouTube’s specific guidelines not to post any misleading news about COVID-19. According to Misbar's blog, this comes after YouTube’s expanded policy regarding misleading information.

Fake news websites use social media to reach visitors. Sharing the claim on one of the social media platforms can help users see the headline easily and click on it to take them directly to the website. And this is the most common way of spreading fake news.

According to Forbes, Facebook spread fake news the fastest, worse than Google and other platforms. Since then, Facebook has implemented many initiatives to tackle fake news. The company uses certified fact-checkers and tools for users to report fake news. And “ whenever the post appears flagged as fake news, it shows up on the post making the reader aware of the information they are looking at before believing it’s true.”

Instagram also developed a new strategy to tackle misinformation and fake news. And whenever the organization finds fake content, they can remove it from the explore page and hide it from used hashtags. The content, then, becomes labeled “False Information,” in addition to a warning sent to the account user.

To summarize, there is a joint responsibility of the global citizens, governments, companies, and social media platforms to tackle fake news, especially when the media landscape changes over time. And while some individuals have taken advantage of social platforms to mislead others through generating and spreading misinformation. And now that people in many regions get their information from social media platforms, it is urgent to develop critical thinking to be able to distinguish between reliable information and fake news “while navigating these floods of information.”

Misbar’s Sources:
The Brazilian Report
UNESCO Courier
Dixie Sun News
Nature Human Behaviour