Last month, Facebook announced a partnership with third party organizations like Politifact and Snopes intended to combat the epidemic of fake news. This effort was immediately ridiculed by conservative juggernauts, including Ben Shapiro, the Heritage Foundation, and The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway. Right-leaning pundits argued that this is another attempt to restore the media control the left had before the 2016 election.
But are conservatives right to push back on the fight against fake news? These pundits make bold claims, ones that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Fake News Is A Real Problem
Ultimately, fake news is a real problem. According to a study conducted by Buzzfeed, for the first time ever fake news surpassed real news in terms of total engagement.
At the end of the day, conservatives must recognize that fake news is an issue, too. It should concern any individual who believes that a healthy republic depends on transparent and reputable information distribution. Conservatives cannot claim to support fiscal responsibility, social diligence, or political realism if we fail to be responsible, diligent, and realistic when it comes to where we receive our news.
What Have Conservatives Missed?
Call me gullible or naive, but I believe that Facebook has the purest of intentions regarding this fake news initiative. Conservatives who claim that this crackdown on fake news is an attempt to silence conservatives miss two key components.
1. Facebook’s plan relies on individual users. Before any post is sent to Politifact, Snopes, or ABC, it first has to be flagged as fake news by a large portion of its readers. This means PolitiFact and co. will not be proactively hunting down articles, but will only investigate allegedly fake news (whether from the left or the right) after it has been flagged by enough users.
2. Content will not be deleted. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement came along with a seven-point plan, which included creating warnings for users who click on an article labeled as “fake news.” However, Facebook never claimed that it would delete content labeled as fake. Rather. it will just inform readers of the possibility of non-truthful information. It is still up to the reader to decide what is true or not; Facebook is just helping people know when they should be skeptical.
Fake News Shouldn’t Be Partisan
As conservatives, we disagree with liberals on nearly every issue. However, fake news and the fight against it cannot be partisan. Social media and open dialogue are some of the few tools we have left to fight against big government. For that reason, we cannot lose the medium due to untruthful claims–whether they support our agenda or not.
I am not saying we should turn a blind eye to censorship. Rather, we need to give Facebook a chance to fight against a real problem.
And who knows? If this system works, maybe The Onion will stop being the most realistic-sounding “news source” on my Facebook timeline.