Facebook is making good on its recent decision to flag “fake news” through a collaboration with the Associated Press and Snopes.com. You can see this at work in reference to the myth of the Irish slave, which functions along the same lines as the Black Confederate myth. Both attempt to diffuse arguments about race-based slavery in the United States and particularly in the South.
Here is how Facebook is signaling to its users that they may be sharing “disputed” information.
Let me first say that I am not a huge fan of Facebook flagging websites even though I completely agree that this historical narrative lacks any basis in fact and I would like to see the sharing of these websites brought in check. The fight against “fake news” and “fake history” ought to be fought elsewhere, especially in the classroom.
The larger problem is that these popups don’t really address the larger problem on Facebook. You can join hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook pages that promote all kinds of wacky theories and historical interpretations. Lord knows how much time I have spent on various Black Confederate pages and I suspect that there are just as many devoted to the myth of Irish slaves.
If Facebook was really interested in cracking down on misinformation it would have to do something on this end. But even going this far, as the actor James Woods notes, is unlikely to result in any substantial changes in how users judge information on their social media platforms.