Following another tirade of criticisms launched by US President Barrack Obama calling Facebook out for spreading fake news during US elections, Mark Zuckerberg today explained on his timeline how Facebook tackles misinformation. Zuckerberg has been quoted previously as saying it was “crazy” to assume that the fake news spread on Facebook influenced the outcome of the US elections.
In an apparent response to people questioning him about Facebook’s stance on how to handle misinformation Zuckerberg wrote, “We take misinformation seriously. Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”
Zuckerberg talks about how the social media giant has relied on the community to help understand which stories are fake and which are legit. He said that anyone on Facebook can report a link as false, and after a lot of people have flagged it as such; Facebook tries to classify them as misinformation. “Similar to clickbait, spam and scams, we penalise this content in News Feed so it’s much less likely to spread,” Zuckerberg said.
He also pointed out that Facebook is careful not to discourage the sharing of opinions by ‘mistakenly restricting accurate content’, and instead relies on its community and third parties to be arbitrators. Zuckerberg also pointed out that it is not normal to share the specifics of what the company plans to do in tackling misinformation, but finds it an important issue that needs to be addressed.
Zuckerberg outlined some of the projects that Facebook is currently working on-
1. Stronger detection – The most important thing we can do is improve our ability to classify misinformation. This means better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves.
2. Easy reporting – Making it much easier for people to report stories as fake will help us catch more misinformation faster.
3. Third party verification – There are many respected fact checking organizations and, while we have reached out to some, we plan to learn from many more.
4. Warnings – We are exploring labeling stories that have been flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them.
5. Related articles quality – We are raising the bar for stories that appear in related articles under links in News Feed.
6. Disrupting fake news economics – A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. We’re looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.
7. Listening – We will continue to work with journalists and others in the news industry to get their input, in particular, to better understand their fact checking systems and learn from them.
Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not. But I want you to know that we have always taken this seriously, we understand how important the issue is for our community and we are committed to getting this right.
President Obama had criticised Facebook again yesterday for spreading fake news in favour of Republican front-runner (now President-elect) Donald Trump. “In an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television,” The Verge quoted Obama as saying. “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” he further said.
Justice Minister from Germany, Heiko Maas also found himself criticising the tech giant, saying that he believes Facebook should be treated like a media company rather than a technology platform. He further suggested to make Facebook criminally liable for failing to remove hate speech.