News on Social Media

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News on Social Media

Jan 26, 2024

On December 31, 2023, the New Year’s Eve Ball was hit by fireworks. The ball caught on fire immediately, smoke pouring out in all directions. Policemen were seen on the scene directing people away from the incident. One million people had gathered in Times Square, filled with excitement to watch the ball drop but all they received was disappointment. No one was injured or harmed during the fire. The following TikTok by Madeline Salazar shows footage of the incident and her response: Many people commented later that it clarified the reason for the slight delay in their live streams. They speculated the ball drop footage they witnessed on their television screens that night was a clip from a different year.

Did you see this news? What were your thoughts when you watched this video? If you cannot or do not believe this video, your skepticism is correct. Madeline Salazar, the girl who posted the video, is an AI expert who makes popular TikTok videos demonstrating the use of AI to create convincing images. She orchestrated this video, photoshopping the ball catching fire, adding a clip of cops rushing people out of Time Square, and finally including a video of herself reacting to the incident. Her video convinced many people that this incident had occurred until she posted a follow up TikTok (seen here: on January 5th, 2024, explaining she faked the video and how she did it. Her main goal was to convince people to not get their news from Instagram and TikTok since AI is becoming more and more convincing. She states, “Just because somebody posts something, does not make it true”.  

Should there be regulations on misinformation and fake news on social media platforms? The answer is yes, and social media sites have been working to slow the spread of fake news posts for at least a few years now. Third-party fact checks, algorithms, and image matching technology can be useful tools in stopping the spread of fake news and misinformation. Third-party fact checkers can identify fake news posts and choose one or both of the following options: making the post harder to find on explore pages and labeling it as potentially fake news for all social media users to see. Just as algorithms can be used to create an interesting and addictive feed for social media users, it can also be used to identify fake news posts. Algorithms can be an additional help to third-party fact checkers by finding posts that are connected to recently created websites and recognizing that this is less trustworthy than an older website that has been reviewed. When they find these posts, they can filter them into essentially a social media spam folder where people must purposefully go into it to find these posts. If the account who posted the information believes the post was flagged unfairly, they can have the third-party fact checkers look over their post. Lastly, after third-party fact checkers label a post as fake news, image matching technology will be used to further identify posts that have the same content elsewhere on Instagram. These three tools are helpful for social media sites to reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation on their platforms. Most social media sites are already using a few of these tools to achieve their goal of regulating fake news.  

After this discussion, was it wrong for Madeline Salazar to fake the New Year’s Eve ball drop incident? No, it was not wrong since Salazar is taking the necessary steps to educate others to not believe everything that they see on social media with her follow up post. Educating people on how to identify fake news on their own is the most important action that should be taken to combat fake news and misinformation being spread. Once people do not believe every fake news post they see, the posts lose their power to impact the public opinion. Social media sites regulating their posts and the public being better informed are the best ways to stop fake news and misinformation from spreading.

Briana Billups, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: "Misinformation and fake news spread rapidly on social media. If you were in charge of X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, YouTube and TikTok would you regulate misinformation and fake news? If so, how? If not, why not?" Briana is an Integrated Marketing Communications major.

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