Sunday 27 November 2016

Can Facebook Actually Ban Fake News?


In the wake of the US presidential election, almost everyone agrees that misinformation is a problem. Even Mark Zuckerberg has finally said that Facebook will take it seriously. “Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information,” he wrote this week.

Zuckerberg’s message was slightly undercut for some users by the fact that it was accompanied by adverts for fake news. Ev Williams, the co-founder of Twitter, Blogger and Medium, posted his own example a few days later: links, claiming to be from ESPN and CNN, to stories that implying that Tiger Woods had died and Donald Trump had been “disqualified”, right next to the Facebook chief executive’s post.

Those examples are the obvious extreme of Facebook’s problem: straightforward hoaxes, mendaciously claiming to be sites that they aren’t. Dealing with them should be possible, and may even be something the social network can tackle algorithmically, as it prefers to do.

But they exist at the far end of a sliding scale, and there’s little agreement on where to draw the line. Open questions like this explain why many are wary of pushing Facebook to “take action” against fake news. “Do we really want Facebook exercising this sort of top-down power to determine what is true or false?” asks Politico’s Jack Shafer. “Wouldn’t we be revolted if one company owned all the newsstands and decided what was proper and improper reading fare?”

The thing is, Facebook isn’t like the newsstands. And it’s the differences between the two that are causing many of the problems we see today.

*** Has Google Actually Manipulated Stories During US Election



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