As reported in today’s New York Times, Facebook is taking aggressive measures to get ahead of the expected storm of fake news many anticipate will surround the general election in Britain next month. The social media giant’s effort comes in the wake of significant criticism of the how the platform has become a vehicle for spreading false information during highly contested political races, like the 2016 American presidential election and a series of other recent elections in Europe.
Included among the preemptory tactics Facebook is employing:
- Publishing a series of advertisements in Britain with advice to users on how to spot misinformation online.
- Removing tens of thousands of possibly fake accounts in Britain.
- Tweaking its algorithms to reduce the amount of misinformation and spam users will see in their Facebook news feeds.
- Hiring 3,000 more moderators (almost doubling the current number) who scan for inappropriate or offensive content.
- Clamping down on how fake news sites make money from advertising on the network.
Despite Facebook’s efforts, many remain critical of Facebook for not doing more. Claire Wardle, research director at non-profit First Draft News, argues that there is “significantly more that Facebook could be doing. They know more about people’s online activities than anyone else. They know what goes on within their platform.” And as the New York Times piece points out, Twitter has made its user data readily available for researchers to determine how misinformation spreads online. But Facebook has not out of concerns over user privacy, and because it sees itself as just a digital platform not to be forced to police people’s political opinions online.
Where Facebook goes from here and whether what it plans will be enough to stem the tide of fake news is anyone’s guess. But the world is definitely watching, with some politicians seemingly poised to begin holding the company more accountable with fines if it does not do more to police its network. Stay tuned.
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