Facebook is taking steps to eliminate fake news and hoaxes that some critics have suggested might have influenced the 2016 presidential election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says. While reiterating earlier comments in which he said it was “extremely unlikely” that phony stories posted on Facebook changed the election outcome, Zuckerberg said work has already begun that would enable the social media giant’s users “to flag fake news and hoaxes.”
“Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news,” Zuckerberg wrote in a personal Facebook statement posted Saturday night. “This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully, though,” said Zuckerberg, who asserted that “more than 99% of what people see is authentic.”
“Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news,” Zuckerberg wrote in a personal Facebook statement posted Saturday night.
Zuckerberg provided no specifics about how Facebook’s News Feed might be changed, cautioning that “this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system.” He encouraged Facebook’s 1.79 billion worldwide users to follow updates online.
The latest statements responded to growing criticism of Facebook’s ascendant power to sway public opinion. He initially dismissed suggestions that fake stories — such as ones that stated Pope Francis had supported Donald Trump — played a role in the Republican presidential nominee’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“To think it influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said Thursday at the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Zuckerberg’s back-to-back statements came as Trump’s win prompted Silicon Valley soul searching, with some wondering whether tools created in the U.S. tech world’s capital might have run amok. Social media has increasingly become a go-to news source. Nearly half of Americans get their news from Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. In contrast, just two in 10 U.S. adults get news from print newspapers.
As its dominance has grown, Facebook has resisted calls that it’s become a defacto news publisher, exercising editorial judgment with the power to sway the minds of billions, and instead reiterated that it’s simply a technology platform.