Buzzfeed found that the most-shared Facebook stories have been bogus pro-Trump articles, some of them produced by a fake-news mill run by Macedonian teenagers. A man who makes $10,000 a month writing bogus news opened up to a Washington Post reporter about his conflicted feelings. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) suggested the media take note of “paid rioting”—referring to the persistent, yet evidence-free idea that anti-Trump activists were bused-in, paid protesters.
Much of the concern has focused, naturally, on Facebook. On Friday night, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted his second statement in a week on the issue. Zuckerberg assured his critics that they’re working on some solutions, but he also emphasized there’s a limit to what can be done.
“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” Zuckerberg explained. He continued:
We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.
While the percentage of misinformation is relatively small, we have much more work ahead on our roadmap. Normally we wouldn’t share specifics about our work in progress, but given the importance of these issues and the amount of interest in this topic, I want to outline some of the projects we already have underway.
He goes on to explain how Facebook is working on better systems for catching misinformation automatically, as well as making it easier for users to report news as fake. They’re also considering including warnings on news that gets flagged, and are working with journalists and “fact checking organizations” that could help Facebook with third-party verification.
Some of the fake news is really “financially motivated spam” in Zuckerberg’s view, and he said Facebook is “looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.”
“Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not,” he concludes. “But I want you to know that we have always taken this seriously, we understand how important the issue is for our community and we are committed to getting this right.”
Zuckerberg’s post is an attempt to head off what may be a storm of negative public opinion, especially from disgruntled anti-Trump voters and organizations. On Saturday, The Washington Post ran an editorial calling fake news “dangerous mischief,” and suggesting news filtering is a job suited to humans, not algorithms. The New York Times was tougher, arguing that “surely [Facebook] programmers can train the software to spot bogus stories and outwit the people producing this garbage.” The op-ed concludes by holding Zuckerberg responsible for letting “liars and con artists hijack his platform.”