Mark Zuckerberg responds to Facebook fake news criticism, again

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has provided an update on what the company is doing to combat fake news on its platform, following a week of criticism about the extent to which misinformation could have influenced the US election.

As a platform with more than 1.5 billion users, the responsibility weighs heavily on Facebook on how it plans to deal with the issues. It didn’t really help much that a group of Facebook employees have reportedly been meeting in secret to discuss the problem, which came in direct contrast to Zuckerberg’s writing off suggestions that the volume of fake news on Facebook influenced the way in which people voted as “pretty crazy”.

However, a lengthy update posted early in the UK on Saturday outlined what the company is focusing on in response to these concerns, though specifics weren’t disclosed.

In general, Zuckerberg says the company is working to build stronger automatic detection systems for fake news and misinformation, simpler reporting methods that result in quicker removal, third-party verification from fact-checking organisations. He added that clearly warning people that news is fake with a label, and before it’s shared, could also possibly help.

The tricky part of the equation for Facebook, a company funded by ads and user data, is how to remove the financial motivation of spreading fake news by focusing on its ad policies but without harming its overall product.

Zuckerberg also rightly identified that the problem is a difficult one to address for a platform that states its mission as “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. 

“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 mistakenly restricting accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”

It’s rare to get an update on pipeline product changes for Facebook before they roll out, but given the importance of the issues, it decided to buck that trend. The company’s stock price hadn’t been doing very well with all the bad press either.

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