Twitter Needs a Retraction Button
Social Networks should give media outlets a retraction button that, if a tweet/story is proven to be false, would send a corrected tweet not only to their followers but to the followers of people who retweeted their initial false tweet. (If they make it available to everyone, maybe call it a "My Bad!" button.) It would also delete the initial, incorrect tweet.
On a similar note, Facebook/Twitter should change the background color or font color of so-called parody or satirical sites to help people differentiate "jokes" from actual news. Or maybe just have a header ("Satirical Post") above those posts as they do with their "Suggested Posts."
The Full Thought
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the latest shooting, this one at a mosque in Quebec, was met with hasty reporting that ended up being false. In this case, news outlets quickly covered that the two suspects were in custody, one being a French-Canadien with some hints of white nationalist leanings and the other being a Muslim of Moroccan origin.
You'd think that upon hearing this, a red flag would go up. A Moroccan Muslim and a French-Canadien nationalist walk into a mosque... sounds more like the start of a joke than a description of a team of shooters. Still, people ran with the story. Fox News put an extra level of spin on it.
When Fox News realized their mistake, they quickly updated the story and made sure to point out who led them astray.
A second man, Mohamed el Khadir, was initially identified as an additional suspect by Quebec officials. Reuters and the French languard newspaper La Presse reporterd earlier that one of the suspects was of Moroccan origin, a report that was picked up by Fox News and other news outlets. But police later announced there was only one suspect in the attack, and Khadir was identified as a witness.
The language in that paragraph seems to implicate Fox's tweet more than excuse it. "A second man." "An additional suspect" Yet Fox's tweet focused only on him and not the white guy aka the prime suspect. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder if there weren't some ulterior motives behind their spin on that tweet.
Now, given that they mistakenly accused a Moroccan man of shooting up a mosque and that the event was even cited by the White House press secretary as a rationale for President Trump's "proactive" immigration ban, you'd think Fox News would want to get out the fact that the report was wrong. But it wasn't until over 12 hours later that they sent out a new tweet (and it appears to be a scheduled tweet as many of their stories of the day have been tweeted about as well.) In fact, they haven't even deleted the old tweet; It's still out there with a bogus headline and since I took that screengrab of it last night, it's been retweeted out almost 100 more times.
That gave me an idea. "Fake News" isn't usually something that is shared with the intent of sharing alternative facts. People see a headline, believe what they read (be it the article or, often, just the headline), and share. Hours or sometimes days later when the truth comes out, it's too late. The fake news is out there and the correction rarely sees as many shares as the initial post.
So how about a retraction button. Ideally, it would first be for news sources. If Fox News sends out misinformation like the aforementioned tweet, they can update it and send a new tweet that will go out, not just to their followers but to the followers of everyone who retweeted it. This way, most everyone with direct contact with the incorrect tweet could see the correction.
Part of me thinks that the re-tweet should go to the top of people's feeds, perhaps with an "OK, I saw this" button to dismiss it, although I could see people misusing that as a way to get their posts at the top of people's feeds. At the very least, it should also delete the initial "problematic" tweet.
After seeing how the media utilizes the retraction or My Bad! button, social media sites could see if they wanted to perhaps use it at times when the publishers don't. For instance, if Twitter sees that Fox News hasn't updated their tweet, they could send out their own retraction, correcting this tweet and, in this case, connecting to the updated Fox News story. Or maybe just freeze the ability for said tweet to be retweeted, which would give people a heads up that something might be awry with the info in the tweet.
This, of course, leads to potential issues of bias, gray areas, and questions of limits (who do we retract: public figures, media, would there be a retweet threshold that would trigger test of tweet's veracity? How blatant does a falsehood or mistake have to be to get corrected?) but there are examples such as this tweet from Fox that are just simply wrong and have remained active despite being admittedly false. Also, the social media sites having that power might pressure members of the media to report themselves more quickly. Better to retract it themselves than be called out by Twitter or Facebook.
Along the same lines, I think Facebook or Twitter might want to come up with a new background or font color for satirical websites. Many "fake news" sites pass themselves off as satire or parody and I think it's beyond clear at this point that people can't be bothered to figure out if the story they just read was a joke or not, so giving the Onion and others a green background or blue font might help clue people in that what their reading isn't real.
Fake News isn't going anywhere because nobody's really doing much to stop it or stop sharing it or even noticing/caring that what they shared turned out to be false. This could be one step towards solving the problem.