Facebook And The Fake News Epidemic
Since the unexpected US election result, fingers have been pointed at Facebook for allowing fake news to be viewed leading up the election.
November 21st, 2016 by Brendon Petersen
For better or worse, Facebook has become one of the most trusted news sources on the planet.
Our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours all use Facebook as a platform to air their views and concerns. They also share articles and information, on Facebook, that they find interesting and informative. So, why wouldn’t we trust what we see every time we log onto the social media platform?
Well, in the wake of a surprising Trump election win, it appears that Facebook has a serious ‘fake news’ issue. Many are now stipulating that this could have contributed to an unpredicted win.
Many sites, news outlets, and public figures called Facebook – and Mark Zuckerberg – out for allowing fake news reports and articles to flood the platform to the extent that it has.
In an article first published by Techcrunch, Facebook’s VP of product management, Adam Mosseri said the following:
“We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously. We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation. In Newsfeed, we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information. Based on this, we reduce their distribution. In Trending, we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts, we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.”
Following on from that statement, Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook for a second time to speak up about the claims that the platform is being overrun by fake news stories:
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely that hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.
That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.
This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right, but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with, and flag as incorrect ,even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
He then points people to Facebook’s Newsfeed FYI which has articles detailing how the company has worked to reduce clickbait in the newsfeed, as well as explaining how the newsfeed works.
Some of the projects being implemented at Facebook include the following new-and-improved systems:
Whether or not these will be enough to curb, if not halt, the spread of fake news, remains to be seen. It does, however, raise the question of what on the internet can be trusted.
Form our perspective, it’s always best to take anything you see online with a large grain of salt.
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