First it was current US President Barack Obama who criticised Facebook for spreading fake news, saying, “As long as it’s on Facebook, and people can see it, as long as it’s on social media, people start believing it, and it creates this dust cloud of nonsense”. That was two days ago. And since Donald Trump won the US presidential election, Facebook has been the target of widespread criticism of how its Newsfeed algorithm disseminates and amplifies information (via TechCrunch).
Various commentators pointed to Facebook and its role in the election campaign, which resulted in headlines such as “Donald Trump won because of Facebook”, so you can start hating or loving the social media platform right now.
Those commentators say Facebook has been “hugely irresponsible”, because it has become a major media source, which, of course, also enables bogus stories to emerge and gain traction. But that doesn’t apply just to bogus stories; that’s something these commentators often forget to mention.
Last week, Buzzfeed uncovered what TechCrunch calls “an entire cottage industry of Web users” based in Macedonia, busy generating fake news related to Trump vs. Clinton, which they posted and then appeared in the Newsfeed. Of course, it is hard to check the facts or, at least, the source of the story, but that’s something not everyone does, especially if the reader doesn’t have time or for other reasons (you name it).
Anyways, Facebook has admitted (indirectly) that firing the human curators and building the Newsfeed on algorithms wasn’t their best move and say they have work to do. You can read the company’s statement in full below.
We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously. We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation. In Newsfeed we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution. In Trending we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.