Your Favourite Rappers May Have Contributed to Facebook’s Fake News Epidemic

Waka Flocka Flame, 50 Cent, and more regularly share unsourced viral content for clicks, and that can be hazardous.
November 23, 2016, 8:06pm

A recent study by Stanford University showed that, out of nearly 8,000 teens, most of them couldn't tell when news posted on Facebook was false or not. It's a scary litmus test that shows how nebulous and subjective information on the web has become, especially for the teenaged and older users who make up the biggest social media audience. With the mounting evidence suggesting that fake news items and memes shared on Facebook played a not-insignificant part in electing U.S. President Donald Trump, attention towards accountability from social media services and vigilance from consumers has increased. What's fallen by the wayside is how these fake news pages are tied to the world of rap.

Facebook has never been kind to artist pages, despite their importance to the music promotion machine. Thanks to algorithms, only about 10% of a musician's followers will see any given post from them unless those followers select an option from tiny drop-down menu. Thusly, it can be considered a useful strategy for artists to turn their page into the kind of generic content aggregator that attracts a much wider audience than their core fanbase. The most famous example of this is Waka Flocka Flame who is still posting links to trashy listicles like "7 Disgusting Facts About the Porn Industry" at this very moment. The trend, however, extends to Raekwon, Curren$y, Chief Keef, 50 Cent, Young Thug… Pretty much anyone. While the clickbait-y lists are more harmless, the tendency for such pages to link to fake news is chilling.

Why would big, typically older rappers like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent choose to host clickable content on their official artist pages? The answer may lie in the similar practice by radio stations on their own Facebook pages, best exemplified by the infamous Virgin Radio Lebanon which, in 2014, was the page with the highest engagement in the world. Pages like this post broad-appeal content to grab more traffic, thus enticing more advertisers and revenue for the page's owners. The fact that said content is often only tangentially related to the radio station's main programming or format is irrelevant because the "morning zoo" style programs that draw listeners to these stations and brands aren't bound by such things.

It's not unreasonable to assume that rappers or the managers of their Facebook pages take cues from a Virgin Lebanon, realizing that if Facebook's algorithms mean the page won't be seen by most of its followers anyways, then why use it as merely a promotional tool if there's some extra money to be gained from the radio station model? It's ridiculously tough to find solid numbers on how much a page like Waka's makes, as search engines, ironically, skew towards results that point towards possibly misleading guides on how to make money with Facebook pages. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or be part of a digital multilevel marketing scheme. The two can overlap. Sources from Q&A sites like Quora point to monthly amounts in the $1,000 - 2,000 range, though, and that's just for pages with approximately 10,000 to 20,000 likes. You can imagine how much one with even double that number of likes would make.

The continued existence of artist pages that mainly peddle in viral content only contributes to the filth garden that Facebook has transformed into since it became the primary online news aggregator for the average person. The service is plagued enough as it is, and Snoop sharing stories about how weed would save the American economy isn't helping. That being said, there are worse things to share than silly listicles, especially in times that seem like an endless descent into a very dark part of humanity. But there has to be a balance between the frivolous and the sharp, something that all online content platforms (this site included) are still learning.

Phil doesn't really go on Facebook that much these days. He's on Twitter.