Facebook Admits it Needs to Fix its Fake News Problem

In light of Donald Trump’s successful campaign for president, it’s been suggested that many of the false stories that accrued traction on Facebook over the past 18 months galvanized his supporters and propelled him to the White House. Now, the social network is taking steps to correct its fake news problem.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Adam Mosseri, VP of product management at Facebook, addressed the company’s continued failure to root out the bogus content it amplifies on an international scale:

“We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously. We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation. In Newsfeed we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution. In Trending we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.”

In August, Facebook announced the firing of all human editors working on its Trending news operation. In order to streamline the transitional process, the editors were replaced with an algorithm, which the company noted would make trending content “available to more people over time.” As noted by TechCrunch, Facebook’s replacement algorithm is easily manipulated. To see why, look no further than the teenage hackers from Macedonia who overwhelmed the site with pro-Trump propaganda, or the story implicating Hillary Clinton in the fiery murder of an FBI agent investigating her emails. In the latter instance, the story ratcheted hundreds of shares per minute on November 5, three days before the presidential election.

While Mosseri’s statement doesn’t offer a course action, it is good a Facebook executive understands fictitious news items do thrive on the platform. As far as a solution is concerned, however, the internet is still waiting.

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.