Face­book’s fake news cri­sis deep­ens

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

De­spite the best ef­forts of Mark Zucker­berg to down­play Face­book’s role in the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, the scru­tiny of how fake news is spread on the plat­form has in­ten­si­fied.

Buz­zfeed News is re­port­ing that “more than dozens” of Face­book em­ploy­ees have cre­ated an un­of­fi­cial task force ded­i­cated to ad­dress­ing the is­sue.

Buz­zfeed quoted one mem­ber of that task force, who did not want to be named over fears for their job.

“[Mark Zucker­berg] knows, and those of us at the com­pany know, that fake news ran wild on our plat­form dur­ing the en­tire cam­paign sea­son,” the source said.

Face­book has not re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment on Buz­zfeed’s re­port.

Mean­while, Google on Mon­day an­nounced it would do more to pre­vent fake news sites from mak­ing money through ad­ver­tis­ing. Shortly after, Face­book made ex­plicit a sim­i­lar re­stric­tion on the use of its ad net­work.

Ear­lier on Mon­day Face­book de­nied claims that a tool to whit­tle out fake news had been cre­ated be­fore the elec­tion, only to be shelved due to con­cerns it would make Face­book look like it was cen­sor­ing con­ser­va­tive views.

Mr Zucker­berg ap­pears to be in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated by the sug­ges­tion that fake news was a se­ri­ous prob­lem on his site.

On Satur­day night he posted a lengthy up­date to his pro­file page de­fend­ing it.

“Of all the con­tent on Face­book, more than 99% of what peo­ple see is au­then­tic,” he wrote.

“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.”

His con­clu­sion: “Over­all, this makes it ex­tremely un­likely hoaxes changed the out­come of this elec­tion in one di­rec­tion or the other.”

That statis­tic - 99% - has been the sub­ject of much de­ri­sion as it ap­par­ently refers to con­tent of any kind be­ing posted to Face­book.

In May, Face­book came un­der heavy crit­i­cism after it was al­leged that hu­man edi­tors work­ing on the Trend­ing Top­ics sec­tion of Face­book were re­mov­ing sto­ries that pushed a con­ser­va­tive or pro-Trump agenda.

Face­book de­nied this was the case, but re­moved the hu­man el­e­ment any­way in an at­tempt to ap­pear neu­tral.

Face­book is not alone in com­ing un­der fire over fake news.

Google said it would be clamp­ing down on abuses of its AdSense ad­ver­tis­ing plat­form.

“We will re­strict ad serv­ing on pages that mis­rep­re­sent, mis­state, or con­ceal in­for­ma­tion about the pub­lisher, the pub­lisher’s con­tent, or the pri­mary pur­pose of the web prop­erty,” said Google spokes­woman An­drea Fav­ille.

That an­nounce­ment fol­lowed re­ports that Google’s top-rank­ing news re­sult for the term “fi­nal elec­tion re­sult” high­lighted a story from a fake news site with in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on the vote tally.

Not long after Google’s an­nounce­ment, Face­book said it too had added “fake news” to the types of site not al­lowed to use the Face­book Au­di­ence Net­work, a sys­tem sim­i­lar to Google’s Adsense but smaller in scale and lim­ited to third-party apps.

Face­book said its de­ci­sion was about clar­ity rather than any new pol­icy, and that no ac­tion was be­ing taken against any ser­vice as a re­sult.

A cat dressed up with a col­lar and tie looks out from a win­dow of the Ecuado­rian em­bassy in Lon­don on Mon­day. Swedish Pros­e­cu­tor In­grid Is­gren ar­rived at the em­bassy Mon­day to in­ter­view Wik­ileaks founder Ju­lian As­sange about al­le­ga­tions con­cern­ing pos­si­ble sex­ual mis­con­duct com­mit­ted in Swe­den six years ago Pho­to­graph: AP

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