An image posted on Facebook that falsely quoted Australian cricketer Shane Warne attacking the country’s immigration policy was shared over 3,000 times in 24 hours. The platform has now deleted the post, but the fast viral spread of the quote is the latest example of a serious problem across social media.
Posted to the ‘Future Now News’ Facebook account, formerly ‘Future Now News Australia’, the image was reported by multiple people and even corrected by Shane Warne himself on Monday evening. The image and the page hosting it was removed by Facebook on Tuesday.
Never said that ! Someone has made it up….. https://t.co/mzwd87DDHx
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) April 15, 2019
Increasingly, the Australian politics space on Facebook has been flooded with hyper-partisan pages as the country moves towards a federal election.
Future Now News only had 7,500 followers, but was able to rack up over 2,000 shares on the Shane Warne quote in a matter of hours on Monday. That’s a reach equivalent to more than a quarter of its size and the comment thread in the now-deleted post was full of people praising the spin bowler, calling for him to run for Prime Minister.
The image’s instant virality adds fuel to the fire of criticism against Facebook, with many saying that the platform’s News Feed algorithm rewards extreme views on either side of the political spectrum.
As Facebook earnestly tries to assure its billions of users – and the world’s governments – that it’s doing something to keep fake news and propaganda in check, stories like this one continue to surface.
The Warne image is significant. In the seemingly endless whirlpool of fake news propagation and promotion on Facebook, it isn’t just politicians being leveraged, but also other high-profile Australians. Your dad might not care if Scott Morrison or Bill Shorten says something about immigration, but what if he thought Shane Warne or Ricky Ponting said it? Suddenly, it’s not just image macros of Gough Whitlam and Robert Menzies doing the rounds.
But this image wasn’t supposed to spur a parliamentary run for Warne. Instead, it was designed to use an Australian idol to stoke xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment. And it was working. The quote wasn’t even ripped off of some already existing far-right personality – it was completely made up, created in Photoshop, and shared across Facebook for thousands to see, unchecked.
That alone should be of huge concern.
Facebook has been contacted for comment.