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Facebook profits soar from Fake News

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Public Opinion Shaped By Russian Bots

Facebook now has more than 1.8 billion users who log on every month and more than 1.2 billion users who do so every day. Over 1 billion of Facebook’s daily users access the site primarily on their phones or tablets and that number grew by 23 per cent in the latest quarter of 2016. Mobile ad revenue made up about 84 per cent of the company’s total ad revenue. Facebook also said it earned $12.4 billion in income from operations in 2016, nearly double the total from 2015 ($6.2 billion).

Of course, it would seem logical to assume that all those people are using Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction. Most people aren't using social media to be social. Only about 9 percent of Facebook's users' activities involve communicating with others. Instead, most users consume random pieces of content, often fake news.

And researchers found that passively consuming information isn't fulfilling or satisfying. Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. Interestingly, they didn't experience the same emotional decline when they surfed the internet. The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook. Through a series of studies, researchers concluded that by the time people log out of Facebook, they feel like they've wasted their time. Their remorse over being unproductive causes them to feel sad.

Despite the emotional toll, more than 70 percent of users check Facebook daily. So why on earth do people keep coming back for more if Facebook causes them to be sad? Researchers say it stems from a psychological term called affective forecasting.

Studies confirm that people predict Facebook is going to make them feel better. They assume--albeit incorrectly--that 20 minutes of Facebook activity will boost their mood. They don't recognize that it's actually robbing them of joy. So the cycle continues. Someone assumes Facebook will give a momentary break from stress or a quick opportunity to check in with friends.

But ultimately, that individual isn't likely to communicate with friends, nor is the Facebook visit likely to boost his or her mood. Yet there's a good chance the person will fail to recognize the personal toll of being taken in, and he or she will keep going back for more (fake news) and psyc profiling, disguised as fun games, or quizes.

“It’s not always clear what is fake and what isn’t. A lot of what people are calling fake news are just opinions that people disagree with.” — Mark Zuckerberg

This is just the latest in a long string of recent responses, and excuses that Facebook executives say about the issue - they continue to shirk responsibility for the content that users consume and share on Facebook - because it's just so darn profitable to them.

“We're focused on decreasing the financial incentives for false news because a lot of times it is financially motivated” — Sheryl Sandberg

The executive response after the 2016 election comes only after a public outcry — Facebook itself admits that fake news has existed on the platform for years.

And given these latest comments from Zuckerberg, and Sandberg, it seems more clear than ever, that Facebook will never take any real responsibility for the truthiness of the content pouring through the site.