Google’s and Facebook’s Mistakes Following the Las Vegas Massacre

velocity Digital Innovation, Social Media

You’ve heard it over and over again no matter how much you’ve tried to ignore it: fake news. Fake news is used to describe a political story which is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person. The printing and dissemination of fake news isn’t a new concept. However, in the past, it has been easy for people to understand which news story is inherently false. Last Monday Morning, many Americans woke up to the heartbreaking news of the Las Vegas Massacre which killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500. Google and Facebook displayed false reports on the unfolding tragedy; adding to the ongoing failure of the Internet’s largest news platforms to manage misinformation. We can confidently say we are living in the age of the algorithm.

An algorithm is a set of instructions for carrying out a particular task. It’s deterministic, predictable, not subject to change and works for all cases. The average internet user often doesn’t check facts or consider whether the source is credible when reading an article. Algorithms within networks such as Google and Facebook provide users with personalized, and ultimately, skewed results. Algorithms are always changing so companies can maintain a competitive advantage. The algorithms made explicitly for filtering news narrows the information we receive and serves us information that tends to support what we already believe. Facebook confirmed in a paper that it often shows users news from users with similar political beliefs and users are about 6% less likely to see content that the other political side favors. Your best friends and their political views influence what appears on your newsfeed more than the algorithm does.

After the Las Vegas massacre, Google’s algorithm promoted a story on a 4chan message board thread that misidentified the shooter. Facebook’s crisis response hub showed an article with the same misidentification. Google responded quickly and stated that relevant results had algorithmically replaced the story. Facebook told CNN that they were working hard to fix the issue that led to the false news story being promoted. These examples of algorithms failing present a great lesson for marketers. Many marketers feel that everything can be reduced to algorithms, predictability, and numbers. This logic can be true to a certain extent: but not wholly. Algorithms arouse suspicion in consumers which causes plans to backfire. If a customer feels that the marketer knows too much about them, they will abandon ship. Algorithms also encourage complacency and stifle customer responses to marketing offers.

Here at Velocity Agency, we know our clients on a personal level and work with them side by side to ensure that they have success rather than treating them as a formula or equation. That extra attention makes ordinary brands extraordinary, and we are proud of each of our client’s success.