Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News
The social media giant hopes to combat the rise of fake news content as a result of the 2016 presidential election
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Since its debut in 2004, Facebook has become one of the most popular social media websites. 1.18 billion people use it daily as a portal to connect with friends and share updates about their personal lives. More recently though, it has grown to become a source for the latest news. The 2016 presidential election pushed more people to go to Facebook for their news, which is accessible through links to different articles and posts from people and publications. However, the election’s results have shed light on a large issue: not all news sources found on Facebook are completely accurate. In crucial cases like the election, it is important that Americans are given true information so that they are able to make decisions accordingly.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, Facebook has made the decision to partner with fact checkers including The Associated Press, Politifact, ABC News, and Snopes to make the information found on the social networking website as reliable as possible. The new partnership is designed to allow ordinary Facebook users to report stories they believe may have false details. These news stories will then be forwarded on to the fact checkers who will make final decisions on whether the stories shared are legitimate and whether the information can be conveyed in a clearer way to the Facebook community.
Though this may seem like a simple solution that benefits the general public, how accurate will this information from fact checking services be?
James Goldston, the president of ABC News, shared that the fact checker team is only made up of about half a dozen people. Considering the billions of people that use Facebook, there will be massive amounts of members reading and flagging the false news stories. Inarguably then, the team is incredibly small.
Many are shocked that Facebook would not consider hiring more fact checkers given that it is such a large organization. The goal may not even be effective given that a limited number of people can easily transform the objective fact checking process into a subjective one. There are currently few ways to tell if this small group will base their decisions off of truth rather than opinions. According to various sources, including The New York Post, many of the fact checkers have liberal-leaning opinions. Politifact’s involvement has also caused controversy given that it has appeared to favor left-wing officials and policies in reports.
Past actions seem to prove that the concerns of the possible bias among Facebook’s selected fact checkers are well-grounded. During the election, it was discovered that several partner news sources hired to fact check were extremely opposed to Donald Trump but greatly supported Hillary. Politifact also declared Trump a liar when he said in June that “crime [was] rising.” However data proved Trump correct. When confronted, Politifact stood by their original claim with a vague answer.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has been shamed for his choice of this “limited” group. However, he claims that fact checking political news specifically was not his original intention. He has given the fact checkers strict instructions to not devote all attention to political stories, but rather to generally focus on any false news. Zuckerberg hopes that this plan will make Facebook more accurate, but given the likeliness of the website simply becoming a more liberal environment as a result of fact checkers, the outcome is difficult to predict.