Say it ain’t say, Noah Trevor.
The host of the Daily Show was saying Thursday night that Facebook is becoming the primary source of news for many folks. And being in the news business myself, I can tell you that many media organizations see Facebook as a way to reach people, if only to draw them back to their sites.
So, maybe I don’t have my Facebook page set up properly, because I am not seeing a significant number of real news stories in my so-called “news feed.” I only seem to be getting articles shared by my friends and the one media outlet — my own newspaper — I follow, which only provides a limited number of links to articles.
And many of the so-called news articles that friends on Facebook are sharing are parodies and complete fabrications coming from humour sites. The articles look real enough in your Facebook feed. But if you click on them and go to the source’s sites, you soon discover that the whole thing is a joke.
Such as two stories that sucked me in last night: One had a picture of a snowy street purportedly in southern Ontario with a headline warning of an impending snow dump at the beginning of October, complete with an Environment Canada warning. Time to put the snow tires on the car?
So, I clicked on the headline and was taken to some site — in Ireland, I think — with a list of supposed news articles and not a word about an early fall snowstorm in southern Ontario.
Then there was an article from the CBC itself, about a newly built condo tower in Ontario in which the developers had made a major omission — they forgot to install bathrooms in more than 100 apartments. Of course I clicked on that link and read the article — which mentioned at the end that “This is That (a CBC Radio Show) is an award-winning satirical current affairs show that doesn’t just talk about the issues, it fabricates them.”
I’ve seen numerous fake articles on Facebook, and been sucked in by most of them because — being in the news business — I need to check into it.
Thing is, research has shown many times that we are a nation of headline readers. The vast majority of people only skim headlines, especially online. So, consider how many people saw the fake Ontario snow headline and are now booking appointments to have their snow tires installed next week.
And consider of how many people think a condo tower in Ontario wasn’t built properly — and might now reconsider potential condo purchases in that part of the country.
Sadly, fake headlines on Facebook are misinforming and misleading people. As a result, Facebook is inadvertently doing a disservice to millions of readers.
You might say, “Hey, can’t you take a joke?”
Yes, I can. Except as Trevor Noah quite rightly pointed out, Facebook is becoming the primary news source for many people — people who skim headlines and don’t always click on the links.
So, I can’t trust Facebook as a news source.
On the other hand, Twitter is a great source for breaking news stories, and far more reliable . . .