#PRFAIL: The Newest Unfortunate Gatekeepers

facebook ceo I’m normally a happy and go-get-em type of person, but this story made me shake my head in disappointment more than once.

To begin, here is a simple definition of the term “gatekeeper” by Merriam-Webster: “A person who controls access.”

Inside the world of the modern-day internet it is imperative that information is something that every person and business has access to, within reason to privacy, so that they can make informed decisions.

Facebook has taken steps towards denying information from people under the guise of protecting people from “fake news,” and even their sister company, Instagram, has started practicing similar tactics.

I’ll explain.

This whole story starts back in 2009 when Facebook hired lobbyists to help Facebook become more influential in both Washington and Brussels (1) A move that by itself isn’t damning when you have a company as large as Facebook it doesn’t hurt having someone looking to government to help your company.

Fast-forward to 2017 and Facebook rolls out a program called “related articles” that appear with stories that are suspected of being “fake news.” (2) Additionally, they made moves to combine AI and human review processes to cut down on “fake news” articles on their site. (3)

Let’s also add Facebook’s dedicated ‘trending news’ section to mobile devices and I don’t need to tell you that people are using Facebook on their phones. This section has been known to have “bias” issues when it comes to what it considered ‘trending’. (4)

In a different but similar issue, Instagram shadow-banning profiles that makes hashtags used by those accounts invisible to other Instagram users killing any chance of getting that post noticed by users outside the follower count. (5) That’s a problem.

This is not a political piece and I’m not commenting on Facebook’s political opinions which they have been open about.

This is all about being in control of your message and hammering it in. That’s how to succeed in modern business.

With Facebook dipping its feet in the world of censorship not only is it invalidating its user’s intelligence to pick and choose, but it’s, for lack of a better term, playing God with its information. Right now, it’s under the guise of helping people from fake news (which we know isn’t even that bad—check out this whitepaper proving it.)

This also hammers in the point that PR for your company is vital now. It’s seemingly harder to control your own message on social media and going through the traditional media will be a way to circumvent the dangers of being “tagged” as something negative in the eyes of Facebook.

This is a fail because it insults user intelligence and doesn’t promote a clean avenue to have conversation and exchange data. It could hurt businesses.

It also, and mark my words, will mark the point of Facebook and other social platforms’ decline.

This also proves the point that a relationship with the media is even more paramount in 2017 than it was in 2016. The media love a good “opposing force” story – it is, after all, their job to be unbiased.  And 91% of journalists today are mindful about getting the story right.6

Don’t get caught without a vehicle for your message.

1 B. Johnson “Facebook hires lobbyists to push privacy agenda” theguardian.com June 2009, Web, Aug. 15 2017
2 J. Constine “Facebook fights fake news with links to other angles” techcrunch.com Aug 03, Web, Aug 15 2017
3 Ians “Facebook combines AI, human review process to curb fake news” theindianexpress.com Aug 12, Web, Aug 15 2017
4 M. Castillo “Algorithm may not fix Facebook’s trending topics bias issue” CNBC.com Sept. 1, Web, Aug 29 2017
5. N.A. “What is an Instagram Shadowban, and have you been affected” plannthat.com Web, Aug 29 2017
6. Dunn, Jeff. “Most Americans Do Not Trust News They Read on Social Media, Survey Says. “Business Insider. Business Insider, 25 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 June 2017.

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