By now, we’ve all heard the phrase “fake news” thousands of times. But no matter how much her supporters wish to believe the artful attempt by master media manipulator Hillary Clinton to explain the failure of her uninspired campaign, “fake news” isn’t real and can’t be eliminated.
As social media organizations attempt to come up with algorithms to crack down on so-called “fake news,” it’s becoming apparent that tech companies are having a tough time telling the difference between legitimate and fake reporting.
Last week, The Chicago Tribune’s Kurt Gessler explained how changing algorithms at Facebook are making it harder to the newspaper to get news to consumers:
Facebook’s algorithm isn’t surfacing one-third of our posts. And it’s getting worse
Starting in January of this year, we at the Chicago Tribune started to anecdotally see a fairly significant change in our post reach.
We weren’t seeing a huge difference in post consumption or daily average reach, but we were just seeing more misses than hits. At the Tribune, we have a fairly stable and predictable audience. We had around a half million fans at the end of March and have seen slow but steady growth in the last year. Most Facebook posts fell into the 25,000 to 50,000 reach range — with a few big successes and few spectacular failures each day, usually based on the quality of the content or the quality and creativity of the share.
A number of other traditional media outlets have also complained that social media companies are making it more difficult for them to reach their social media audiences.
Facebook’s news feed algorithm changes have been part of publishing reality for many years. But to Matt Karolian, director of audience engagement at The Boston Globe, “last month was probably the worst we’ve had in reach in about a year. The fact everyone else is seeing it is a little bit troubling.”
Aysha Khan said Facebook reach has also been sliding at the Religion News Service, where she’s social media editor.
“Reach spiked in the summer, and we started hitting 15, 25K reach on bigger posts that were polarizing,” Khan said. “It wasn’t just political posts, but any kind of interviews. Anything that had potential to get a big reaction got a big reaction. But then we noticed that kind of stopped, and by January, it was just gone. Now we’re worse off than we were to start with.”
The change has happened even as RNS has been doing more video, including live video, and photos, things that Facebook has encouraged. Khan said RNS is still trying, though, with plans for more regularly scheduled live video and videos generally.