Facebook employees have come together to form a secret task force against the ‘fake news’ issue in the US Presidential election. According to a report in BuzzFeed, more than a dozen employees are involved in this, and five of them spoke to the site on conditions of anonymity. Two of the employees insisted they raised the issue of fake news in the past, but it wasn’t taken seriously by the company.
“One said she had made it clear that even though users were flagging certain media as being fake, or a hoax, the company was not taking a strict enough line with removing that content or defining what constituted fake news,” the report said.
The problem for Facebook is that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been in denial about fake news influencing election outcomes. Zuckerberg has denied this twice in public, and also in a private memo to the employees at Facebook.
He denied allegations that fake news spread on Facebook influenced the outcome of the US election and termed the idea “crazy”. “The idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea,” he had said.
However, Facebook employees of the task force do not seem to agree with Zuckerberg’s statement and one of them said, “It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season.”
Zuckerberg is insisting Facebook is pretty transparent in ranking when it comes to News Feed. In a post, he explained that very small amount (about 1 per cent) of what users see on their News Feed is fake news and overall, this makes it extremely unlikely that hoaxes changed the outcome of this election. But according to the BuzzFeed report, not all of Facebook’s employees are buying this, and many have expressed dissatisfaction and consider the issue of fake news a big problem.
Facebook is facing criticism after in media said the company didn’t do enough to suppress fake articles against the Clinton campaign and allowed fake, pro-Trump stories to keep getting shared, re-shared on the website. Zuckerberg denied that Facebook could have predicted Trump will win or that it knew about how influential he was with his supporters. He had also said it was wrong to assume that people would vote or not vote for a candidate simply because of something they saw on social media.
Facebook faced criticism earlier this year over claims the service was suppressing conservative views. A Gizmodo report published in May had claimed that links to ‘conservative articles’ in the ‘Trending’ Topics Section were suppressed. Mark Zuckerberg, however, denied all claims of an inbuilt bias.
However, Facebook made changes to its ‘Trending Topics’ section following reports to make it more automated, and removed all human editors.