Twitter cofounder calls out Facebook on "fake news"

Sometimes a screenshot's worth a 1,000 words...

With Facebook coming under fire for its apparent failure to deal with the dissemination of fake news across its site, one of the founders of social networking rival Twitter has highlighted the extent of the problem.

Ev Williams took to Medium – the publishing platform of which he is also CEO – on Tuesday to share the irony-laden experience he had whilst reading Mark Zuckerberg's update on how his company are dealing with a situation which hit the spotlight during the hostile bipartisan campaigning in the run-up to the US presidential election. Have a gander at this screenshot...

Needless to say, both of the stories next to Zuck's insistent words that Facebook takes "misinformation seriously" were fake, with neither going to the media organisations advertised.

In his Medium post, Williams explained:

"Despite appearances, the first one doesn't point to espn.com.

"It goes to espn.com-magazine.online and attempts to sell a muscle-building supplement using ESPN branding and a fake news story. The CNN-branded ad goes to less work. It just takes you to a site called Fine the Racers with an exclusive offer for a 12-week programme to strengthen your toes (?)."

Despite this clearly being "sponsored" content, Facebook had told Reuters on November 15th:

"We do not integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news."

In the very post referenced by Williams, Zuckerberg promised to: put in place better technical systems to detect false news before the user does; make it easier for people to report such content; employ "respected fact-checking organisations" to offer third-party verification; display a warning when stories are found to be false; and work with the news industry to improve the situation in general.

The Facebook chief acknowledged that a lot of the fake news is actually "financially motivated spam" and, as such, the company was "looking into disrupting the economics with ad policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection."

"Some of these ideas will work well," he said "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."

Both The Washington Post and New York Times offered harsh criticisms of Facebook over the weekend, with the latter blaming Zuckerberg for allowing "liars and con artists hijack his platform".