Is Facebook Rolling Back Its Fake News Battle?

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed how the tech company will tackle the “fake news” problem Thursday in a 5,700-word open letter on his social media profile.

“The two most discussed concerns this past year were about diversity of viewpoints we see (filter bubbles) and accuracy of information (fake news),” Zuckerberg wrote, referring to his actions, both personally and through the business. “I worry about these and we have studied them extensively.” (RELATED: Facebook Exec: We Are ‘Just Getting Started’ With ‘Fake News’ Battle)

Zuckerberg is certainly concerned about over-dramatized and misleading news popping up on the platform, but said that he doesn’t want Facebook to necessarily censor people’s opinions.

“Accuracy of information is very important. We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously. We’ve made progress fighting hoaxes the way we fight spam, but we have more work to do,” Zuckerberg said.  “In a free society, it’s important that people have the power to share their opinion, even if others think they’re wrong. Our approach will focus less on banning misinformation, and more on surfacing additional perspectives and information, including that fact checkers dispute an item’s accuracy.” (RELATED: Facebook’s New Arbiter Of News Is A Former CNN Anchor Who Can Barely Hide Her Anti-Trump Bias)

One of those purported fact-checkers is the outlet Snopes, which almost exclusively employs Left-leaning people and has failed on a number of occasions to repudiate certain news stories.

Facebook has been pressured to help decipher and purge news stories that are false or unsubstantiated. Some, especially people on the Left, insist that fake news unduly influenced the 2016 presidential election, swinging it in favor of President Donald Trump. (RELATED: Germany To Consider Fining Facebook If It Doesn’t Purge Fake News)

But a study conducted by researchers at New York University and Stanford shows that “fake news” had virtually no effect on the outcome of the election. (RELATED: Podesta Says Fake News Is A Huge Threat, But The Facts Say Different)

Facebook recently announced two updates to its platform that include “incorporating news signals to better identify and rank authentic content” and “a new way to predict and rank in real-time when posts might be more relevant to you.”

The social media company is essentially adding more markers to each post by analyzing factors like the source of the page. The algorithm Facebook uses to triage content on users’ News Feeds will account for these labels and subsequently adjust. (RELATED: 2016’s Assault On The Internet Was Brutal. Will 2017 Be Worse?)

Automatically identifying a post as legitimate or fraudulent may be a difficult task for Facebook, since subjectivity seems to be liable to even the most seemingly scientific processes.

Zuckerberg, though, appears to clarify that these two updates are more likely to be its means of weeding out fraudulent news stories, rather than aggressively purging them, even though it’s a work in progress and may ultimately be an imperfect system.

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