Facebook reveals plans for tackling fake news

21 Nov 2016

Facebook login page. Image: Paul Stringer/Shutterstock

The pressure continues to build on Facebook about its handling of the spread of fake news on the social network, and now Mark Zuckerberg has responded with a seven-point plan on how it is going to fix it.

While Facebook has been criticised in the past for allowing fake news – that is, news which makes outlandish claims on either the right or left of the political spectrum – the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has cranked it up a gear.

In the weeks that have followed, its founder Mark Zuckerberg had called the idea that Facebook influences people’s opinions “crazy”, despite research showing it as one of the biggest sources of news for the average person.

‘We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions’

Now, following a growing mutiny within its ranks over this dismissal, Facebook and Zuckerberg have come forward once again to reveal that it is planning to tackle the problem, starting with a seven-point plan.

In a blog post, Zuckerberg admitted there was a lot more work to be done, in terms of preventing the spread of false information, but stressed that it does not see itself as the “arbiter of truth”, relying on people and third parties to tackle it themselves.

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” Zuckerberg said.

“We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content.”

Included in the post were seven points laid out by Zuckerberg as a roadmap for plans to tackle the issue, despite him saying that it goes against its protocol of revealing its plans early.

These include:

  • Stronger detection
  • Easier reporting
  • Third-party verification
  • Warning labels
  • Related articles quality
  • Disrupting fake news economics
  • Listening to journalists

Some ideas will work, others won’t

The first four items will see Facebook develop algorithms better capable of detecting news that might contain dubious sources, and perhaps of a greater sophistication than the BS detector Chrome extension released by Daniel Sieradski.

The point relating to the disruption of the economics of fake news will come as a worry to advertisers and purveyors of ‘clickbait’ articles, which publish sensationalist items as news in the hope that they reap a portion of profitable online advertising money.

However, Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook’s actions will not be a foolproof plan.

“Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not,” he said.

“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.”

Facebook login page. Image: Paul Stringer/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic