Face­book gets se­ri­ous about fight­ing fake news

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -


Face­book is tak­ing new mea­sures to curb the spread of fake news on its huge and in­flu­en­tial so­cial net­work. It will fo­cus on the “worst of the worst” of­fend­ers and part­ner with out­side fact-check­ers and news or­ga­ni­za­tions to sort hon­est news re­ports from made-up sto­ries that play to peo­ple’s pas­sions and pre­con­ceived no­tions.

The so­cial net­work will make it eas­ier for users to re­port fake news when they see it, which they’ll be able to do in two steps, not three. If enough peo­ple re­port a story as fake, Face­book will pass it to third-party fact-check­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that are part of the non­profit Poyn­ter In­sti­tute’s In­ter­na­tional Fact-Check­ing Net­work. Five fact-check­ing and news or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing with Face­book on this: ABC News, The As­so­ci­ated Press, Fac­tCheck.org, Poli­ti­fact and Snopes. Face­book says this group is likely to ex­pand.

Sto­ries that flunk the fact check won’t be re­moved from Face­book. But they’ll be pub­licly flagged as “dis­puted,” which will force them to ap­pear lower down in peo­ple’s news feed. Users can click on a link to learn why that is. And if peo­ple de­cide they want to share the story with friends any­way, they can - but they’ll get an­other warn­ing.

Why Fake News Mat­ters

“We do be­lieve that we have an obli­ga­tion to com­bat the spread of fake news,” said John Hege­man, vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct man­age­ment on news feed, in an in­ter­view. But he added that Face­book also takes its role to pro­vide peo­ple an open plat­form se­ri­ously, and that it is not the com­pany’s place to de­cide what is true or false.

Fake news sto­ries touch on a broad range of sub­jects, from un­proven cancer cures to celebrity hoaxes and back­yard Big­foot sight­ings. But fake po­lit­i­cal sto­ries have drawn out­sized at­ten­tion be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity that they in­flu­enced pub­lic per­cep­tions and could have swayed the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

There have been dan­ger­ous real-world con­se­quences. A fake story about a child sex ring at a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., pizza joint prompted a man to fire an as­sault ri­fle in­side the restau­rant. By part­ner­ing with re­spected out­side or­ga­ni­za­tions and flag­ging, rather than re­mov­ing, fake sto­ries, Face­book is sidestep­ping some of the big­gest con­cerns ex­perts had raised about it ex­er­cis­ing its con­sid­er­able power in this area. For in­stance, some wor­ried that Face­book might act as a censor - and not a skill­ful one, ei­ther, be­ing an en­gi­neer-led com­pany with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence mak­ing com­plex me­dia ethics de­ci­sions.

“They def­i­nitely don’t have the ex­per­tise,” said Robyn Ca­plan, re­searcher at Data & So­ci­ety, a non­profit re­search in­sti­tute funded in part by Mi­crosoft and the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. In an in­ter­view be­fore Face­book’s an­nounce­ment, she urged the com­pany to “en­gage me­dia pro­fes­sion­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing on these is­sues.”—AP

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