Facebook in midst of mutiny as staff form group to tackle fake news

15 Nov 2016

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at previous G8 Summit. Image: Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock

There’s mutiny within the Facebook camp as in defiance of its founder Mark Zuckerberg, a splinter group of the social network’s staff is teaming up to tackle the spread of fake news.

The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has caused shockwaves throughout Silicon Valley, where many of the companies and their figureheads have denounced the president-elect’s comments made throughout the campaign.

The shock election outcome also saw accusations flying as to how such a man was elected into office, with one such finger of blame pointed towards Facebook and allegations that its news feed did not do enough to tackle the spread of fake news that could have swayed the election.

It isn’t crazy

In the days that followed, Zuckerberg proclaimed publicly that the idea Facebook was capable of affecting the election’s outcome as a “pretty crazy idea”, despite the fact that research within Ireland has shown over half of people say they receive their news on the social network.

Now, according to Buzzfeed News, a number of Facebook’s employees have effectively gone rogue to form a task force to tackle fake news articles published on the platform – but they could be fired for speaking of the group publicly.

Five employees came forward to Buzzfeed News to alert the news organisation about the group with one – an employee of Facebook’s engineering division – outright rebutting Zuckerberg’s claims that its powerful influence was a crazy idea.

“What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” the source said.

Staff meeting in secret

Details on the rogue task force remain scant with the sources only going so far as to say that there a couple of dozen employees involved, who are all meeting in secret outside of the critical eye of upper management.

However, following the election, hundreds of staff have allegedly spoken of their issues with the proliferation of fake news on Facebook.

A second employee said on the matter: “If someone posts a fake news article, which claims that the Clintons are employing illegal immigrants, and that incites people to violence against illegal immigrants, isn’t that dangerous? Doesn’t that also violate our community standards?”

In response to these claims, a spokesperson for Facebook has said that “while Facebook played a part in this election, it was just one of many ways people received their information”.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at previous G8 Summit. Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic