When people relied on a community paper for local news, there was a trust in the truth of what was written, and although individuals might have had different points of view, they all drew from the same pool of information. When Facebook and its groups are your only sources of local news, that trust in shared knowledge all but disappears.
Facebook is not a journalistic enterprise, and it is struggling to prove that it offers more than “fake news.” The new Facebook Journalism Project Community Network is offering small grants to 23 groups “to develop a meta-community for local news publishers.” Rather than just paying journalists to report local news, the project will “fund community-building.”
Regardless of their new efforts and claims, Facebook does a poor job of acting as a news source. Despite increasingly complex algorithms, and an increasingly large staff of living, breathing humans overseeing the algorithms, it is still the case that “news” items on Facebook can appear from pretty much any source, and that memes camouflaged as news items circulate with abandon. The problem is that the average reader isn’t equipped to judge what’s real and what’s fake.