Almost a year ago, when the USA Presidential election campaign was in full swing, we were able to read about false news almost every week and about how they were conquering the world. Their proliferation was expressed by long analyzes, the terms „false news“ and „righteous society“ were fashionable words and Macedonian school children earned thousands of euros for fiction. Social media was blamed for all of this.
Less than a year later, we read every week how social media is voluntarily or being forced to take steps against false news and is reporting their victories.
To understand the impact of various social media channels on the public, as well as the steps are they taking, it is worthwhile to look at the followers of different channels. Without a doubt the largest group of followers, more than 2,000,000,000 registered users is Facebook. The next largest group involved in the war on fake news is Twitter with 328,000,000 users. The Russian channel Vkontakte has approximately 208,000,000 users and Odnoklassnik with roughly 45,000,000 users.
Fake accounts, which allow false news to be greatly distributed on Twitter, range at about 48,000,000. Fake accounts on Facebook are depending on the source, believed to be between 83,000,000 and 170,000,000 although Facebook itself claims to be shutting down somewhere around a million fake accounts a day.
Although Facebook has six times more users than Twitter, when it comes to influencing individuals, the information war or the distribution of fake news then it is Twitter that is mentioned. There are millions of automated bots, fake accounts as well as webs at work there, that are dealing with one or another „puppet master“ type activities. This is all thanks to the many opportunities Twitter has given to its users. Even though Twitter is a top player in the information war, there is still a lot of conscious and active fake account operations on Facebook as well.
In the last couple of years, traces of influence activity have been seen especially at important events like the Presidential elections in the USA and France or the referendums in England and Spain.
This has caused the leaders of different countries to actively seek solutions to the problem. When previously the social media channels were expected to actively restrict the deliberate distribution of false information, then in the last year laws have been implemented to force the situation. Germany was the first country to work on a restrictive law regarding Social media. The law was passed in June 2017 and becomes effective as of October, when Social media must by law delete any offensive content within 24 hours. The law allows for a penalty of up to 50,000,000. Euros for not dealing with the offensive content and or any other infractions of the law. Russia has begun legally dealing with Social media and threatened the continued violation of the Personal Data Localization Act by the termination of Facebook activity in the state. Russia requires Social media channels to keep users’ data on their national servers.
Ukraine is also among the countries that limits Social media coverage; they blocked access to Russian Social media on Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki as well as mail.ru and Yandex.ru. The decisive intervention of countries has in turn made Social media deal with these matters and now we can read about their fights with fake information weekly.
Facebook unsuccessfully initiated a fake news marking system at the end of 2016. At the beginning of 2017, FB began filtering out news flows concerning the Presidential elections in France and Germany.
Facebook reported in September, that in the last couple of years 470 Russian accounts have ordered and distributed at least 100,000. Euros worth of political commercials, aimed at breaking up society. Approximately 10,000,000 people have viewed this. Facebook also confirmed the deleting of these same accounts. Similarly, Facebook closed tens of thousands of fake accounts in Germany prior to the Presidential elections.
Google announced in October that it has found evidence of Russia’s use of technological hi-tech resources to intervene in the Presidential elections in the United States. It can be seen that both Social media channels and countries are actively engaged in stopping the spread of false information. In the case of Fake news, the problem is not much the content of the information but the technical solutions of the channels that allow massive dissemination of false information.
Only time will tell whether the spread of fake news will end but at least the prerequisites for the reducing of fake news is taking place.