There has been a lot of discussion of late about fake news on Facebook.

Some folks believe fake news affected the outcome of the presidential election. One law professor recently told me that most of the stuff on Facebook was fabricated. It won’t be too long before I’ll be at conference where lawyers will be told to stear clear of Facebook because of hoaxes and fake news.

Big mistake. Less than one percent of news and information on Facebook is fake. That’s probably about the same as mainstream media.

Also not to be lost on you, as a lawyer, is that Facebook has almost 2 billion users, and that 44 percent of Americans get their news from the social network. If you’re not sharing information and commentary on Facebook you’re missing a huge opportunity.

I’m with Mark Zuckerberg who recently posted,

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.

Having said that, Zuckerberg is looking to limit the fake news that there is and show people that they will find meaningful content and accurate news on Facebook.

Zuckerberg knows he must proceed carefully when you get into “the truth” and censorship, let alone Facebook’s desire to maintain its status as a technology company and avoid the responsibilities that come with being a media company.

Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

David Pogue, reports in Scientific American this week that Facebook has already taken action.

  1. If you tap the V button at the top right of a post and then choose “Report this post,” you’ll see a new option called “It’s a fake news story.” On the next screen, you’ll have a choice of options, including “Mark this post as fake news.” (Other options include “Message Chris Robin” [or whomever posted the story] to let them know they fell for it.)
  2. If enough people flag a story as fake, it will be sent to a fact-checking organization like Snopes.com or PolitiFact. And if the outfit determines that yes, the story is bogus, it will appear on Facebook with a red banner that says, “Disputed by Third-Party Fact Checkers.” That banner will include a link to the fact checkers’ article explaining why the story is false. The stories still appear, but with flags that identify them as phony and lower in your News Feed.
  3. Facebook will employ software and algorithms to help identify fake stories. For example, Facebook has learned that when lots of people read a certain article but then don’t share it, it’s often because the story is phony.
  4. Facebook is trying to shut down the financial incentive for fakers. Its engineers have eliminated the ability for the fakers to create Web sites that impersonate actual news sites, for example. And the company will analyze sites that draw ad dollars from Facebook traffic, and will cut them off if they’re in the business of fake-news fraud.

Though cynics argue that fake news generates eyeballs and ad revenue for Facebook, people use Facebook because of the value it brings to their lives. Value comes from accurate information and news — and the engagement that ensues.

Gaming a popular site is not without precedent. A whole SEO industry has sprung up to game Google in an effort to get Google users to visit third-party sites lacking valuable information. Through software and algorithms, Google reduced the junk to a minimum – enough so that the world uses Google as the leading source of information — including lawyers for a lot of legal research.

The above four steps are just a start, Facebook has the brightest social engineers in the world working for them. If anyone can eliminate fake news, they can.

How we receive news and information has changed dramatically in the last decade. Television news, newspapers and news websites carried the day five or six years.

Today, people receive news socially – from people they trust. Facebook, as the largest social network is likely to become the leading source of accurate news and information for Americans.

  • As one of the several billion people on Earth who does not have a Facebook page, it strikes me that there are two issues raised in this post: The amount of fake news circulating on Facebook, which despite your contention is no doubt considerably higher than in the general media because it doesn’t employ any actual editors or reporters, and whether attorneys must have a company page on the site.

    The second issue is the one worth considering.

    I have only anecdotal evidence on this coming from client interviews, focus groups I’ve conducted and market research I have done for specific law firm. But there is enough data it so that a broad brush picture can be drawn. For B2C law firms,

    Facebook can be a powerful tool to attract inquiries if a combination of an active company page and advertising are used. And, this requires fairly intensive management.

    For most B2B firms, Facebook is not an important new business tool. Entrepreneurs, executives and general counsel simply don’t have Facebook on their radar when looking for a firm to handle a business matter – it’s seen as tbe site where they go (if at all) to keep tabs on what their kids are doing or to check in on an aging relative. LinkedIn and Twitter are far more important to B2B firms and attorneys than Facebook is likely to ever be.

    • You are missing a couple points. One, the more you use Facebook personally to share news, information and commentary and engage (like, comment), the higher the quality of your News Feed. I don’t see junk, ads or the small amount of fake news there is.
      Two, Facebook works best for B2B when used personally by business leaders, not by the company and not with ads. I exchanged emails late last evening with two or three leaders of large companies. In each case it was on a business opportunity. The relationships I have with each of them have been nurtured on Facebook. If I wanted a quick response from each I would use Facebook messenger to reach them.
      Facebook is all about relationships and getting to know people — same as business.

      • Thanks for responding, Kevin. I had to crack a smile at your statement that “I exchanged emails … with two or three leaders of large companies. In each case it was on a business opportunity” because it’s a bit like saying “All pygmies wear red hats, especially the two I met.”

        The point I was trying to make was that the return for time invested on LinkedIn and Twitter is going to be significantly higher than the same amount of time spent on Facebook – for the reasons I cited. Facebook isn’t on the radar screen of people needing a business law firm, and LinkedIn has replaced traditional directories as the go-to source prospective clients use when checking out a firm and an attorney. However, as with Facebook, individual lawyers need to be active as well as relying on a firm strategy for LinkedIn and Twitter; this stuff doesn’t happen by magic. Given that most B2B lawyers have a limited amount of time each day to devote to social media, they’re much better off spending the time on LinkedIn than on Facebook.

        (PS-I have no business interest in LinkedIn or Microsoft or any other social media site for that matter.)

        • More people, including execs, use Facebook than any other social network, including LinkedIn and Twitter. I am not sure why you believe few business people Facebook for personal and professional engagement. What’s been your personal experience using Facebook to engage people with whom you do business with and want to do business with?

          • I based my comment about executives not using Facebook as a source for finding lawyers to handle a business matter on stats I’ve collected from the past five years worth of client interviews, focus groups and blind market research I’ve conducted for law firms of all sizes and in both the B2B and B2C sectors.

            While not statistically meaningful because of the limited sample size, there is enough data from enough different research covering a range of industries and positions (i.e., CEO, Director, general counsel, etc.) to paint a reasonably accurate picture of how social media is used by the people who hire business law firms. As I noted in my initial comment, Facebook is vital for B2C law firms; it’s irrelevant for B2B firms and lawyers.

            In part because of the consistent research results over the years, I’ve never bothered to create a Facebook page for myself or the business. So I have no personal experience using the site. For the same reason, I’ve focused on LinkedIn which has generated new business opportunities for my firm and me; Twitter has been much less important. Our clients report that LinkedIn and (to a lesser degree) Twitter is important in their business development efforts.

            The work I’ve done has found that of the same people who do use Facebook, it’s almost entirely for personal reasons: Keeping tabs on their kids, staying in touch with relatives, setting up foursomes for golf, arranging evenings out with friends. It’s not used to find suppliers of business legal services.

          • Saying Facebook is iirrelevant for B2B lawyers is flat out wrong, In fact, Facebook may be better suited for B2B lawyers than for B2C.

            Why? Because it’s all about relationships. I represented consumers when I practiced for 17 years. While my partners networked with business people, networking with consumers soon to be the victims of someone’s negligence was near impossible

            A business person would never go to Facebook for finding a lawyer nor would business lawyers go to Facebook to ostensibly get clients. It’s networking.

            Facebook, like the places B2B lawyers do go, is all about relationships. Relationships with influencers, clients and prospective clients. Relationships and a strong name are by far and away the leading ways lawyers get business.

            The lawyer who taught me the most about Facebook was Attorney Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine. From large law and being one of the leading media/advertsing/1st Ammendment lawyers in the country, he started using Facebook years ago to share legal and personal items — as well as to give shoutouts to media clients.

            I thought Facebook was nuts to use to build business relationships (B2B) until I started using it. It’s hard to explain why Facebook is so invaluable to someone who’s not used it.