After this week's unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency, some have pointed to Facebook's enabling of misinformation as one source that fed his success. Now, Facebook is admitting it must try harder to fight the problem.
In a statement first provided to TechCrunch, VP of product management Adam Mosseri said Facebook works to combat misinformation, but admitted "there's so much more we need to do."
We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously. We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation. In Newsfeed we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution. In Trending we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.
The issue of fakes news has by now been a longstanding one for Facebook, and one that was exacerbated when the company fired its human editors in favor of algorithmic selection. (The company made that decision after a storm of criticism over whether some employees had suppressed conservative news sources in its Trending Topics section.) In one instance, a completely false story claiming Megyn Kelly secretly supported Hillary Clinton appeared in the Trending Topics section. More problems followed.
With a president-elect who has a propensity for the conspiratorial — and who favors a conservative media machine that does as well — Facebook will likely meet increased scrutiny over its place and responsibility in the news ecosystem.
In a statement last night, Mark Zuckerberg, while not denouncing Trump, encouraged a "long term focus" on issues. "We are all blessed to have the ability to make the world better, and we have the responsibility to do it," he wrote. "Let's go work even harder." In its battle against misinformation, the company is admitting that it has to.