Facebook and Twitter unveil plans to tackle ‘fake news’

23/01/2018

Facebook and Twitter have both revealed plans to deal with the spread of fake news and propaganda on their services.

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Facebook said that it would ask its users to tell it which news sources they read and trust to help it decide which ones should be featured more prominently.

In a post on his personal page on Friday evening, Facebook's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to make sure news consumed on the platform was from "high quality and trusted sources".

"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today," wrote Zuckerberg.

"Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them."

Meanwhile, Twitter said in a blog post that it would email nearly 678,000 users that may have inadvertently interacted with now-suspended accounts believed to have been linked to a Russian propaganda outfit called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The announcements come amid intense scrutiny by US lawmakers over both Facebook and Twitter’s role in letting Russians and others spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. The goal, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, was to divide Americans on politically charged issues like race, religion, and gun control.

Zuckerberg announced the Facebook news just days after his company said it would revamp its news feed to show users more family-friendly posts from friends or acquaintances that Facebook believes will spur more user interaction.


However, some social media experts have expressed doubts over the effectiveness of Facebook's plan to combat fake news by surveying users on what news sources they find trustworthy.

Technology analyst Larry Magid told Al Jazeera's NewsGrid that the survey risked taking into account opinions formed from prejudices against, or preference, for certain outlets instead of whether they were trustworthy or accurate.

"Simply because something is well liked by a percentage of the public, doesn't mean it's reliable," he said.

"There are people who love news sites that are objectively untrue - that doesn't require an opinion, that's something you can establish by fact," added Magid.

In a post on his personal page on Friday evening, Facebook's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to make sure news consumed on the platform was from "high quality and trusted sources".

"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today," wrote Zuckerberg.

"Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them."

Magid explained that it was encouraging that Facebook had chosen to survey a representative sample but others were more blunt with their criticism of the plan.

Matt Navarra, the Head of Social Media at The Next Web, tweeted: "Facebook announces it will start asking users to decide which publishers are trustworthy in order to filter out news content. The same Facebook users who constantly fail to spot Fake News and share it widely."

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