In something of an election week tradition, this newspaper’s editor spoke to the local Pachyderm Club last Friday. The topic was a fascinating chart produced by Denver lawyer Vanessa Otero that attempts to peg media bias. Using her sophisticated, copyrighted methodology, the chart ranks The Associated Press, major newspapers, news networks and online entities, showing which do the best job of impartial news reporting, which lean left or right, and which are so disreputable that they hardly fit in the bottom corners of the chart.
One entity that is not considered is Facebook. You know that Facebook has made headlines for perpetuating not just fake news, but allowing that fake news to influence elections. Now the news gets even worse with something called Facebook Groups. Here’s one definition of Facebook Groups: A Facebook Group is a place for group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. They let people come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos, and share related content.
Groups are growing. According to Forbes magazine, Facebook Group membership has increased 40 percent in the last year alone. If that number doesn’t dazzle you, this one might: 1.4 billion people are now using Groups every month.
Today’s editorial isn’t just an example of Facebook envy from a small newspaper that wishes it reached a fraction of the social media giant’s audience. According to Jonathan Albright, research director at the Tow Center for Center and a scholar on misinformation and social media, Facebook Group threats transcend the others.
“We can talk about how scary WhatsApp is in other countries, and how Twitter might play a leading role in the United States elections, but it is Facebook’s Groups — right here, right now ?— ?that I feel represents the greatest short-term threat to election news and information integrity,” Albright wrote.
While we all got through the midterms without any disastrous meddling — that we know of, anyway — it’s important for each of us to be vigilant about basing our opinions on the most trustworthy information we can find. There are no perfect sources, but reading a combination of legitimate news sources might help you avoid the pits of propaganda.
For some fun and political fodder (not recommended for the Thanksgiving Day table!), check out Otero’s Media Bias Chart: https://bit.ly/2PXHWW6