Are social media users to blame for the spread of fake news?

Perhaps social networks should blame themselves.

In July 2018,  WhatsApp removed the quick forward button and restricted the forwarding of messages on their platform in an attempt to stop the spread of fake news in India. Six months later in January 2019, they announced a global limit to the forwarding of messages to 5 contacts in a further attempt to stop the spread of fake news.

Sounds like responsible corporate citizenship right?  In normal circumstances, maybe. However, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and they are certainly not responsible corporate citizens. Facebook and WhatsApp are running scared of all the bad publicity swirling around social media nowadays, and they are taking lessons from the NRA, who are the masters of spin.

Fake news is a serious problem but when people are dying, things take on a whole new level of serious. Facebook and WhatsApp cannot accept responsibility for the creation and spread of fake news on their platforms because that would open them up to legal liability for the deaths they have helped cause.

Instead, they lay the blame on their users saying that it is users creating fake messages and forwarding them around. “Fake News doesn’t kill people, social media users kill people,” to modify the old NRA justification for every gun related massacre on US soil which may now be applied to social media.

This is a total cop out and another sign of how scared Facebook is right now. They have been run through the wringer, literally and physically in 2018. Yet, this announcement by WhatsApp that lays the blame at the feet of users shows how out of touch they still are.

It could not possibly be that their algorithms are designed to maximize reach and re-forwarding of every message? Nah. Maybe they could really change their platforms and give control back to the users by allowing them moderate their own newsfeed? Can’t do that because that would render their exploitative Ad-based revenue model useless.

They just don’t get it or they can’t afford to get it.  

Not exactly a recipe for good corporate citizenship if you ask me.