by Elton Gomes
Facebook has said that the company will never eliminate fake news as it does not violate any community standards. The social media company will instead “demote” posts that can be passed as fake news in users’ news feeds. Facebook is currently running an advertising campaign in the UK that states that “fake news is not our friend”. The company added that publishers often had “very different points of view” and removing fabricated posts would be “contrary to the basic principles of free speech”, as per an IANS report.
The Mark Zuckerberg-led company has been under constant scrutiny, and its reputation took a significant hit after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. Although Facebook claimed to come down hard on data leaks, it allegedly leaked analytics reports and exposed data of over 120 million users.
On Wednesday, the social media firm held an event in New York in which it attempted to convince journalists that it is working towards resolving the problem of fake news. “We allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed,” a Facebook spokesperson said, IANS reported. After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook has taken numerous steps to protect user data and to prevent dissemination of fake news. But the company hasn’t been able to fully ward off fake news.
What has Facebook done to curb fake news?
In January 2018, Facebook said that it would ask users which news sources they read and trust in order to help the company decide which publication should feature more prominently. CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a Facebook post that such responses will help “shift the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community,” according to Fortune.
Ensuring that the US midterm elections in November are not affected by fabricated news, Facebook announced new steps aimed at enhancing election security and combating fake news. Facebook’s executives told reporters that the company was expanding its fact-checking efforts. Additionally, the company said that it was doubling its security team and working to prevent “misleading or divisive” memes from going viral prior to the midterm elections.
A report in Engadget states that Facebook hired third-party checkers to review flagged content. Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, said that the company wants to tackle foreign interference in various elections in other parts of the world. The company wishes to completely do away with fake accounts, increase transparency in ads, and slow down the spread of fake news.
Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement, said the company is proactively combing through pages to look for foreign pages that generate fake civic-related content, and is removing them from the site.
As per a new feature launched in April, users would soon be able to distinguish whether stories are from reliable sources or from an untrusted source. The marker is a small “about this article” icon situated near the bottom-left corner of the article’s image. Through this icon, users would be able to view information about the publication, its related stories, and the total number of shares across Facebook. A Wikipedia link will also be available.
Action taken by various governments
The UK government had planned to set up a new unit to counter fake news. Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said that “dedicated national security communications unit” would be charged with “combating disinformation by state actors and others”, BBC reported. In 2017, the German parliament adopted a law opposing the posting of hate speeches, child pornography, terror-related items, and false information on social media. As per the law, fines of up to 50 million euros can be imposed on Facebook and Twitter, if they fail to remove such content.
In April 2018, the Malaysian parliament passed a law that advocated the punishment of spreading of partially or totally false information. The law could attract a prison sentence of up to six years and fines of $130,000. Brazil and France have also tabled draft laws to restrict the spread of fake news.
In recent times, fake news seems to have become an insurmountable problem. A vast platform like the internet attempts to uphold free speech, but it might slowly be turning into a breeding ground for false news.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius