Facebook reveals new strategy to target fake news

The move comes after Barack Obama suggested misinformation on social media was undermining the US political process

Facebook reveals new strategy to target fake news

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru, Saturday, 19-11-2016. Image: AP Photo/Esteban Felix

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to counter fake news on the social media platform.

The move comes after US President, Barack Obama spoke out about the problem and suggested misinformation on social media was undermining the US political process.

Zuckerberg had initially rejected the accusation, calling it a "pretty crazy idea."

However, a BuzzFeed study published earlier this week found that top-performing fake election stories had generated more engagement on Facebook than leading stories from more than a dozen major news sites during the final three months of the campaign.

President Obama told a news conference in Germany on Thursday that "if we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not ... if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems."

Obama said we are now in an age where “there is so much active misinformation, and it's packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.”

“If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect. We won’t know what to fight for,” he said.

“We can lose so much of what we’ve gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we’ve come to take for granted.”

In a post this afternoon, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said the company has been “working on this problem for a long time” adding “we take this responsibility seriously.”

He said the social media giant has “historically” preferred to rely on the Facebook community to understand what is fake and what is not.

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically. We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want, whenever possible,” he said.

“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.”

Zuckerberg said there will be “much more work ahead” in dealing with the issue and outlined some of the steps the company will be taking.

He said the company will focus on improving detection of fake news through better technical systems capable of flagging false stories before they reach the community.

The company also plans to make it easier for users to report fake stories on the site and is exploring the possibility of labelling stories that have been flagged as false by third party fact checkers.

Facebook has reached out to a number of “respected fact checking organisations” and Zuckerberg pledged to “learn from many more.”  

The company also plan to look into “disrupting the economics” of fake news with Zuckerberg admitting that misinformation is often driven by people profiting off Facebook’s advertising mechanics.

"Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not," said the Facebook CEO.

"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."