It’s no secret that Facebook has a fake news problem. Critics have accused the social network of allowing false and hoax news stories to run rampant, with some suggesting that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump’s election by letting hyper-partisan websites spread false and misleading information. Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue twice since Election Day, most notably in a carefully worded statement that reads: “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. 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.”Yeah ……… That whole free market saving the world thing? ……… Not so much.
Still, it’s hard to visit Facebook without seeing phony headlines like “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide” or “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” promoted by no-name news sites like the Denver Guardian and Ending The Fed.
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.
“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”
In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of “highly partisan, fact-light media,” and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. “A bias towards truth isn’t an impossible goal for News Feed,” he wrote. “But it’s now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit.”
14 November 2016
It appears that Facebook has given up on trying to prevent fake news from showing up on its users feeds because said fake news overwhelmingly comes from right wing sources, and they are too terrified of the flying monkey crowd to tweak their algorithm: