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Report: Facebook ‘too afraid’ of conservative backlash to kill fake news

In case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America and half of the country (plus most of the world) is looking for someone to blame.

Among those in the firing line are Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. There’s a theory that the fake news epidemic, which often spreads through the site like wildfire, could have been responsible for influencing the election in favour of Trump.

Zuckerberg himself has refuted the theory, claiming 99% of what users see is authentic and said the instances of fake news did not favour one side or the other.

However, one source told Gizmodo the company decided against rolling out an update that would have nixed fake news sources from users’ News Feeds out of fear of upsetting conservatives again following the Trending Topics controversy.

The source said: “They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news.

“There was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” adding that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

Back in May it was alleged that the human editors behind Facebook’s Trending Topics favoured left-leaning stories, which led to their firing and huge backlash from the political right.

Related: Why Facebook needs to bring back human editors

In a statement released on Monday Facebook denied Gizmodo’s claims, saying it did not withhold News Feed fixes.

The statement read: “The article’s allegation is not true. We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party. We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes. Mark himself said “I want to do everything I can to make sure our teams uphold the integrity of our products.” This includes continuously review updates to make sure we are not exhibiting unconscious bias.”

An estimated 44 per cent of Americans receive their news via Facebook.

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