Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday outlined some of the things his team is doing and considering to combat fake news, including a warning system for suspicious content and bringing in third-party fact-checking services to weigh in on popular content across the site.
"While the percentage of misinformation is relatively small, we have much more work ahead on our roadmap," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
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Some might quibble with his assertion that fake news has not proliferated on the site; earlier this week, for example, BuzzFeed reported that fake stories generated more engagement on Facebook in the last three months of the election than stories from reputable news sources. Even President Obama has criticized its spread. "If we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems," he said during a news conference in Berlin this week.
Indeed, this is the third time Zuckerberg has had to address the topic since Election Day alone. The Friday after the election, he told those at the Techonomy conference that "the idea that fake news on Facebook...influenced the election in any way… is a pretty crazy idea." He followed that up with a Facebook post that said "more than 99 percent of what people see [on Facebook] is authentic, [and] only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes."
That did little to assuage concerns, however, prompting Zuckerberg's latest post. "Normally we wouldn't share specifics about our work in progress, but given the importance of these issues and the amount of interest in this topic, I want to outline some of the projects we already have underway," he wrote last night.
Zuckerberg promised "better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves." He also tipped easier reporting that will make "it much easier for people to report stories as fake [and] help us catch more misinformation faster."
Facebook is also exploring a labeling system for stories that have been "flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them." The company has reached out to "respected fact checking organizations" and "we plan to learn from many more," he wrote.
"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," according to Zuckerberg.
When you click on a news story, Facebook will suggest related articles you might also want to read. Going forward, "we are raising the bar for stories that appear in related articles under links in News Feed," Zuckerberg said.
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed also reported on a group of teens in the Balkans whose raison d'etre was to create fake news that would appeal to Trump supporters. As engagement increased, so did the funds making their way to the scammers' Google AdSense account.
"A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam," Zuckerberg acknowledged in his post. "We're looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection."
That new ad policy bans ads in apps or sites containing fake news stories. Google also said it will punish websites pushing fake news by banning them from using its AdSense service.
Zuckerberg's post came at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night, leading some to speculate that the CEO was trying to bury his post. In the comments, however, Zuckerberg said he posted so late because "that's when I landed and got into in Lima last night" for the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference.