The epidemic of ‘Fake News’ spreading across social media has gained notoriety over recent weeks. And rightly so, it doesn’t get much more serious than potentially changing the course of a US presidential election. Whilst the accusations may have been exacerbated, Mr Zuckerberg has been forced to speak out on the issue with the integrity of Facebooks growing news feed under threat. Recognition of the problem was needed as stories suggesting the Pope endorsed Trump’s campaign became one of the most shared news stories during the election.
With AI algorithms seemingly responding to readers ever growing appetite for sensationalism, the speed at which these stories grow is as surprising as it is frightening. With this in mind, there has been a call for more control over how content is distributed across social media platforms. So should Facebook police the content on the site? With regards to legality yes, but concerning content that on the whole could be considered individual opinion, they must consider their approach carefully. Indeed, endorsing or black listing websites would appear to remove the freedom and impartiality that makes social media so engaging. However, if no action is taken, the threat remains that these platforms could no longer be considered trustworthy. Before sites find an effective way to deal with the issue who knows what fake news could influence, especially in a period where there is clear evidence that emotive content is trumping fact across the globe.
With the issue of ‘Fake News’ hitting the headlines we hope it will increase the chance of consumers spotting a smoking gun. Also, that the media become more ready to offer transparency to the foundations of their content. It would be silly to suggest that media sources will not have an agenda but it should be clear to consumers what content is centred around fact and what is not.
There is an opportunity for newspapers, PRs and research agencies to work harder to improve standards and safe guard against their stories, campaigns and insight getting caught up with illegitimate content. In our industry ‘Quick and dirty’ is a term widely used to describe projects that are designed to generate coverage. If your research partner uses this term we suggest you change your supplier. Research can be quick but should never be dirty.
The supporting role that research plays in defining a campaign, story or helping to shape the viability of a product should offer a tangible and robust platform that will stand up to scrutiny. We suggest challenging your partners to provide deeper rationale as to how they ensure quality. Moreover, you should make sure your clients know about it. It can be a handy tool that will strengthen your offering and further justify your value.
To position yourself well in this era of fake news we suggest:
Being more vocal about how your best practices benefit your clients – if a company is proud of the way it conducts itself it should be vocal about its level of integrity. Focus on delivering tangible value added outcomes. These will provide reasoning for endorsing you over your competitors and good examples of work can transcend industry verticals raising your profile in new markets.
Form partnerships with reputable providers – Make an effort to understand what accreditation’s your suppliers have and how they relate to the quality of their service. Showing that you understand every step of the process and you have a keen eye for quality will keep your partners on their toes and open up opportunities to develop cutting edge initiatives.
Seek out accreditation – actively review industry best practices and showcase your business by aligning with independent bodies and gaining accreditation. Sharing best practices can do a lot to help each other and we would suggest looking outside your market to gain even more positive experiences and knowledge.
No doubt the debate around Fake News will roll on but we see this as a valuable reminder that the devil is in the detail and in business it’s better the devil you know.
Managing Director, Vitreous World
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