Face­book talks ‘con­nec­tiv­ity’ at sum­mit, fight­ing fake news

Malta Independent - - WORLD - Ben Fox

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg urged world lead­ers meet­ing in Peru yes­ter­day to help get more peo­ple on­line as a way to im­prove global liv­ing stan­dards while sep­a­rately an­nounc­ing new mea­sures to cut down on fake news sto­ries on the so­cial net­work that some sug­gest could have helped sway the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The Face­book founder took on the role of an evan­ge­list for “con­nec­tiv­ity” as he spoke at an Asian-Pa­cific trade sum­mit, lament­ing that half the world has no ac­cess to the on­line world and is be­ing de­prived of its eco­nomic po­ten­tial as well as ad­vances in sci­ence, ed­u­ca­tion and medicine. He urged lead­ers to work with his com­pany and oth­ers to close that gap.

“If we can con­nect the four bil­lion peo­ple who aren’t con­nected we can lift hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple out of poverty,” Zucker­berg said as he ad­dressed busi­ness and government lead­ers at the 21-na­tion Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Fo­rum.

But as he was pro­mot­ing the ben­e­fits of the on­line world in the speech, he took to his Face­book page to ad­dress one of the down­sides of the in­ter­net: the rapid dis­sem­i­na­tion of bo­gus news sto­ries on so­cial net­works.

Zucker­berg said in a post that his com­pany was tak­ing mea­sures to curb what he said was a “rel­a­tively small” per­cent­age of de­lib­er­ately false sto­ries. The mea­sures in­clude de­vel­op­ing new tools to de­tect and clas­sify “mis­in­for­ma­tion” and to make it eas­ier for users to re­port the ma­te­rial.

He said the com­pany is also look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing with estab­lished factcheck­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions to eval­u­ate con­tent and the fea­si­bil­ity of warn­ing la­bels for sto­ries flagged as false.

Crit­ics have com­plained that a surge of fake news sto­ries on Face­book may have swayed some vot­ers to back Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump. The com­pany said on Mon­day that it was clar­i­fy­ing its ad­ver­tis­ing pol­icy to em­pha­size that it won’t dis­play ads – thus cut­ting rev­enue – for sites that run in­for­ma­tion that is “il­le­gal, mis­lead­ing or de­cep­tive, which in­cludes fake news“. That fol­lowed a sim­i­lar step by Google, which ac­knowl­edged that it had let a false ar­ti­cle about the elec­tion re­sults slip into its list of rec­om­mended news sto­ries.

“The bot­tom line is: we take mis­in­for­ma­tion se­ri­ously,” the Face­book CEO said in his post. “Our goal is to con­nect peo­ple with the sto­ries they find most mean­ing­ful, and we know peo­ple want ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.”

It is a sen­si­tive is­sue for a com­pany that does not want to cen­sor con­tent such as le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal satire that some peo­ple find of­fen­sive. Face­book sees it­self not as a tra­di­tional pub­lisher, but as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor of global com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

It was that lofty vi­sion of the com­pany that was on dis­play as Zucker­berg spoke at the APEC fo­rum.

He de­scribed Face­book ef­forts in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence pro­grams that could lead to ad­vance­ments in medicine and ed­u­ca­tion, as well as a high-al­ti­tude so­lar­pow­ered drone, still in the de­vel­op­ment stage, which could pro­vide on­line ac­cess to places with none. He also de­scribed a pro­gram to work with lo­cal op­er­a­tors around the world to pro­vide free ba­sic in­ter­net.

“We can’t af­ford to leave any­one be­hind,” he said.

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg

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