Facebook working to tackle fake news

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Only last week, a post originating from “aljazeera-tv.com”, which claimed that former President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar has died received over 100 shares on facebook. The article stated that the former Head of State died in New York where he was secretly flown for medical attention however, Guyanese know this to be untrue.

It is also alleged that misinformation on facebook influenced the outcome of the recently concluded United States Presidential elections. An analysis by BuzzFeed found that false election stories outperformed real news in engagement during the last three months leading up to the election.

U.S President Barack Obama said in Germany on Thursday that, “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media, where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

Chief Executive Officer, and co-founder of facebook, Mark Zuckerberg in a post last evening noted that while the company takes misinformation seriously, historically, it has “relied on our community to help us understand what is fake and what is not.”

“Anyone on Facebook can report any link as false, and we use signals from those reports along with a number of others — like people sharing links to myth-busting sites such as Snopes — to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation. Similar to clickbait, spam and scams, we penalize this content in News Feed so it’s much less likely to spread” he said.

It was explained that while the company takes responsibility, the problems are complex, both technically and philosophically. There is a need to give people a voice and therefore careful attention must be placed on not discouraging persons from sharing their opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content, Zuckerberg said.

There are several projects underway which he outlined as follows;

– Stronger detection. The most important thing we can do is improve our ability to classify misinformation. This means better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves.

– Easy reporting. Making it much easier for people to report stories as fake will help us catch more misinformation faster.

– Third party verification. There are many respected fact-checking organisations and, while we have reached out to some, we plan to learn from many more.

– Warnings. We are exploring labelling stories that have been flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them.

– Related articles quality. We are raising the bar for stories that appear in related articles under links in News Feed.

– Disrupting fake news economics. A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. We’re looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.

– Listening. We will continue to work with journalists and others in the news industry to get their input, in particular, to better understand their fact checking systems and learn from them.

The CEO accepted that some of these ideas will work well, and some will not committed to getting it right.

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