How Facebook is trying to control fake news


Now the people who oppose Donald Trump have started putting the blame of Donald Trump winning on the fake news being circulating on the Internet, especially on Facebook and other social networking websites. Even Google admits that its search engine allowed fake news to appear prominently on its search results. Donald Trump won, primarily, they say, due to tons of misinformation being spread against Hillary Clinton during the most acrimonious presidential contest America has ever witnessed.

Facebook has been taking steps to curb faking news from trending on its website. Facebook was marred with controversy a few months ago when it was reported that the editorial team of the trending topics section on Facebook was manipulating how topics got featured in the section and they wouldn’t allow positive news about the Republican Party to trend on Facebook. To do damage control Mark Zuckerberg had to meet top Republican politicians. Recently Facebook also fired its editorial team and started depending completely on algorithms for its trending topics section.

This Gizmodo link claims that although Facebook had the technology to curb fake news back in 2015, fearing backlash from the Republican Party the social networking website didn’t implement the technology as well as it could have. This allowed the supporters of Donald Trump to spread false and misleading information. Whether this is true or false depends on which side of the political spectrum you stand, but yes, fake news is a big problem on the Internet.

It isn’t just the Trump supporters who can be accused of spreading false and fake news. Recently, a Muslim woman made up a story about being attacked by Donald supporters and there are many instances of Hillary Clinton supporters making up stories of racial abuse and then spreading those stories on Facebook and Twitter. But that’s another issue.

It’s been established beyond doubt that there is fake news from all the sides but Facebook is particularly being accused of going soft over the spread of fake news propagated by the Conservatives.

When it came to light that the editorial team of Facebook was biased against positive news about the Republicans, the entire team was fired and Facebook started using algorithms. Since, it is being insinuated, that fake news is mostly spread by Donald Trump-supporters, the algorithm naturally ended up favouring fake news from the Republicans.

What is Facebook doing to control fake news, since more than 44% Americans seem to be depending on the social networking website for its daily dose of news and opinion?

Facebook has concluded that algorithms don’t work. It also experimented with humans – Facebook users – voting a story up or down to decide whether it should be promoted. This too hasn’t worked because whichever agency can make more people give the up-votes is able to trend the news – whether genuine or fake. So far Facebook hasn’t been able to figure out the best way to stop fake news from trending.

Brainstorming sessions have been going on within Facebook to figure out how to control fake news but there is no clearly-defined approach. Many (for example the writer of the above-linked Verge article) believe that if Facebook comes down heavily upon those spreading fake news in favour of the Republicans, or the Right-wing, they may move on to other websites. For example, the Twitter alternative is already gaining traction among people who are fed up with Twitter’s one-sided censorship. Facebook wouldn’t like that to happen.

About Amrit Hallan
Amrit Hallan is the founder of He writes about technology not because "he loves to write about technology", he actually believes that it makes the world a better place. On Twitter you can follow him at @amrithallan

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