MANHATTAN (CN) — When President Richard Nixon traveled to China, the Cold War-rapprochement became a symbol for hardliners reaching an accord. Silicon Valley may have a similar summit soon with the most influential press group in the nation.
“For me, this isn’t a journalism issue,” said Lynn Walsh, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. “This isn’t even a media issue. To me, it’s about our country, and the future of our country.”
The fake-news scandal played out on Facebook this year against a backdrop of the hotly contested presidential election. With no sign of surrender from the forces of misinformation, Walsh’s organization is set to reach out in the coming days to have the social-media giant reconsider how it views itself in the media landscape.
Throughout Facebook’s lifetime, founder Mark Zuckerberg passionately insisted that Facebook is “not a media company.” Over time, however, that position has become increasingly harder to defend.
Forbes has called the Silicon Valley giant the “global Editor-in-Chief,” as the primary news source for 44 percent of the public.
If true, that statistic makes Facebook’s reach broader than every newspaper combined.
Discussing her invitation for a summit in an exclusive interview, Walsh said she wants Facebook to reshape its thinking.
“I think six years ago, if someone said you’d primarily be getting your news from Facebook, they might have thought that was a crazy idea,” said Walsh, who is also an investigative executive producer for NBC 7 San Diego. “But that’s the reality we live in. The media landscape has evolved. Journalism has evolved, and continues to evolve. So I do hope that while it may not be the original thought that Facebook had. I think they should be now.”
As the country prepares for the inauguration of Donald Trump, a cascade of reports suggested that Facebook's fake and junk news affected the vote earlier this month. BuzzFeed reported days before the election that one hoax-meme factory from in Macedonia had hundreds of thousands of people convinced that Hillary Clinton’s indictment was imminent. Before the fake Nov. 1 story on World Politicus was taken down, it generated more than 140,000 shares, reactions, and comments.
The stats align with one analysis that shows readers engaged more with fake news than real in the three months before Election Day.
One writer of fake news told The Washington Post: “I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me.”
Zuckerberg initially waved off these concerns.
“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea,” he said on Nov. 11. “Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”