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Facebook’s overly-positive language makes journalists endorse politicians

Posted on 23 April 2013

Yesterday I was on Facebook when one of those sidebar ads popped up trying to get me to “like” a page. You know the ones- “Joe Blow likes Super Cola” followed by a picture of Super Cola and a big like button for you to click.

Only in this case it wasn’t Joe Blow and Super Cola. It was a journalist liking a politician running in the provincial election.

My assumption is that the journalist liked the politician’s page because he/she wants to cover the campaign from all angles. Social media is a big part of elections now. It makes sense to follow things this way.

Of course, I know this because I’ve considered the dilemma of interacting with politicians on Facebook. I’m not convinced everyone else will react the same way I did.

It would be easy for someone to see this sidebar ad and think the journalist is actively supporting the politician. After all, it doesn’t say “Journalist is following Politician for research purposes.” It says “Journalist likes Politician.” Positive language that sounds very close to an endorsement.

This might not be problematic if you only saw “likes” when you visited someone’s profile. Upon visiting this journalist’s page you can clearly see that the “likes” extend to every candidate, party, and party leader in the election. If there’s a bias to be had, it’s equally distributed.

Unfortunately, this information does not stay quietly tucked away. It is forced out into the open. I saw the information, out of context, in a sidebar. Not only does it tell me that this journalist “likes” a single politician without letting me know about all the others, it subtly encourages me to “like” the politician as well- almost acting as a peer-to-peer endorsement.

This isn’t a problem on other social media. On Twitter you “follow” people. Following just means you’re interested in what’s happening, not that you “like” it. But in Facebook, everything has to be a positive interaction. You “like” pages. You “friend” people. There’s no room for relationships that aren’t glowing reviews, ready to be packaged up and presented as advertisements for your other “friends” to see.

See also:

1. I know you can “subscribe” but that only works if the person in question has enabled subscribers. Most haven’t.2. At the moment, Facebook lets you opt out of appearing in these “social ads.” You can find the setting here.

Filed under: British Columbia, journalism, media, social media

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