Is Face­book let­ting users fall for fake news?

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

FACE­BOOK had a tool to weed out fake news cir­cu­lat­ing on the so­cial net­work this year but de­clined to de­ploy it for fear of of­fend­ing con­ser­va­tives, a re­port said ear­lier this week.

The re­port by the on­line news site Giz­modo comes with Face­book un­der fire for al­low­ing hoaxes and mis­in­for­ma­tion to go vi­ral and – ac­cord­ing to some crit­ics – boost the ef­forts of Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump in his suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial run.

In Myan­mar, the so­cial me­dia gi­ant also al­lows false news sto­ries to cir­cu­late widely, with oc­ca­sion­ally dire con­se­quences: In Oc­to­ber, clips of burn­ing vil­lages pur­ported to show an on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion in a cer­tain part of the coun­try but were later proven to have been shot more than three years ear­lier.

Face­book has de­nied the Giz­modo re­port, which cited un­named sources said to be knowl­edge­able about Face­book’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing. The site said Face­book’s tool was shelved af­ter a con­tro­versy over re­ports say­ing the so­cial net­work sup­pressed some con­ser­va­tive voices in its “trend­ing top­ics” ear­lier this year.

“They ab­so­lutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” Giz­modo quoted one source as say­ing. “There was a lot of fear about up­set­ting con­ser­va­tives af­ter [the up­roar over] trend­ing top­ics.”

A Face­book state­ment said the ar­ti­cle’s claims were “not true”.

“We did not build and with­hold any News Feed changes based on their po­ten­tial im­pact on any one po­lit­i­cal party,” the state­ment from Face­book said.

“We al­ways work to make News Feed more mean­ing­ful and in­for­ma­tive, and that in­cludes ex­am­in­ing the qual­ity and ac­cu­racy of items shared, such as click­bait, spam and hoaxes.”

Face­book chief Mark Zucker­berg has re­jected the idea that bo­gus sto­ries shared at the so­cial net­work paved a path of vic­tory for Trump.

“The idea that fake news on Face­book, which is a very small amount of the con­tent, in­flu­enced the elec­tion in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea,” Zucker­berg said dur­ing an on-stage chat at Tech­non­omy, a tech­nol­ogy trends con­fer­ence in Cal­i­for­nia.

In a week­end post­ing, Zucker­berg said deal­ing with hoaxes and fake news is com­plex.

“This is an area where I be­lieve we must pro­ceed very care­fully,” he said.

“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.”

The no­tion of hoaxes and fake news re­mained a topic of debate on Novem­ber 14, when in­ter­net users search­ing on Google were de­liv­ered a bo­gus re­port say­ing Trump won the pop­u­lar vote in ad­di­tion to the Elec­toral Col­lege.

The num­bers on a blog called 70News – con­tra­dict­ing of­fi­cial re­sults tal­lied so far by states – said Trump re­ceived 62.9 mil­lion votes to 62.2 mil­lion for Hil­lary Clin­ton.

The blog urged those pe­ti­tion­ing for the Elec­toral Col­lege to switch their votes to re­flect pop­u­lar will to scrap their ef­fort.

“Hey Change.org, scrap your loony pe­ti­tion now,” the post­ing said.

The bo­gus site was listed at the top of many search queries for “fi­nal elec­tion re­sult”.

Pre­lim­i­nary tal­lies showed Clin­ton won roughly 700,000 more votes than Trump de­spite los­ing the states needed for an Elec­toral Col­lege vic­tory.

Google seeks “to pro­vide the most rel­e­vant and use­ful re­sults for our users”, a com­pany state­ment to AFP said.

“In this case we clearly didn›t get it right, but we are con­tin­u­ally work­ing to im­prove our al­go­rithms.”

Photo: AFP

Face­book chief Mark Zucker­berg on Novem­ber 10 re­jected the idea that bo­gus sto­ries shared at the so­cial net­work paved a path of vic­tory for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

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