If you use Facebook at all, chances are you’ve already stumbled upon a few fake news stories. Unfortunately, many of these stories look like they’re coming from reputable sources, but upon closer inspection of the URL you find that the domain extension or site name isn’t authentic. Such stories have tricked thousands into sharing on social media, and the problem has been bad enough during the past few months to draw special attention from Zuckerberg and the Facebook authorities. In case you haven’t been following the topic, here’s an update on everything you know about Facebook’s recent fake news situation and policy updates:
Controversy About Election-related News Draws Attention to the Issue
Fake news on Facebook is nothing new. Ads saying that “your favourite celebrity is gone forever” have probably enticed you to click at least one of the ads. However, the issue recently attracted the attention of the national spotlight during the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election because there were a number of fake stories targeting both political candidates, and many of the ads even tricked some of the campaign participants and managers into sharing. For example, Eric Trump and Trump’s campaign manager actually tweeted a link to a story on a fake news site called “abcnews.com.co” which stated that a Hillary supporter was paid $3,500 to cause trouble at a Trump rally.
Facebook Gets Rid of Human Moderators, Influx of Fake News Follows
Facebook made the decision to fire its human moderators months ago after investigating claims that many of them were politically biased. The humans were replaced by algorithms, but it’s since become clear that this automated solution hasn’t been very efficient at filtering out fake news. The ongoing flood of fake news ads has led many to suggest that Zuckerberg is considering bringing back the human element.
Figuring out the Grey Area: Who Will Decide Whether a Story is True?
Even with humans in charge again, moderating the problem might not be so easy, because there are many news stories that can’t be definitely ruled either true or false. In those cases, how do you give someone the authority to decide what is true or not? It’s an issue that teeters on the edge of totalitarian censorship, yet most of us can agree that blatantly unverifiable false stories should not be advertised as fact.
Audience Network Policy Updated to Specify the Ban on Fake News
Although it should be obvious to anyone that a fake news story falls under the category of “illegal, misleading or deceptive content,” Facebook has decided to update its ad network policy to explicitly clarify that fake news cannot be promoted using the Facebook Ads system. Although Zuckerberg seems to be on-board with putting a stop to the nonsense, he has stated that he doesn’t believe the fake news had enough of an impact to actually influence the election as some have suggested.
Google Joins in on the Fight Against Fake News
Not surprisingly, Google has followed suit by banning the promotion of fake news stories within its advertising network as well. It will be interesting to see how stringently the new policies are enforced in the coming months.
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