Zuckerberg Plans To Fight Fake News With AIDecember 6th, 2016
The U.S. 2016 Election has been at the centre of mainstream media’s attention for the past year and a half with social media bridging the gap between technology and politics. We’ve already discussed the social bubble of this but now the plot has thickened. After Donald Trump won, social networks such as Facebook have been criticised for potentially influencing the outcome of the election with misleading or false information.
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Following internal questioning by employees prior to the election, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg made an official statement, to answer whether Facebook adversely influenced the election. He responded publicly claiming that at least 99% of news content on Facebook was “authentic” in a post on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg stated:
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.” Overall Zuckerberg’s answer is no, Facebook did not influence the outcome of the election.
He continues: “That said, we don't want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.”
Although incorrect news is everywhere on the internet, all the major search engines have tools that are designed to spot false information in order to show the most accurate results to search queries. This is not the case for Facebook as fake news can spread like wildfire on the platform, actively using its mechanisms of distribution such as the rapid-fire act of sharing content, that in turn influences the news feed algorithm to show relatable content on a loop. This makes Facebook users a prime target for ‘shady’ publishers to gather traffic to their ad-festooned websites using made up, incorrect or exaggerated news articles.
In light of this, Facebook announced that they are banning fake news websites from their advertising network (Facebook Audience Network) and are even considering using artificial intelligence (AI) which could resolve fake news on its platform as well as block offensive content. This technology is still in its research phase and Facebook’s policy and product teams have not yet figured out how to introduce AI responsibly. Yann LeCun, Facebook’s director of AI research told reporters during a round table discussion at Facebook’s HQ in California: “The technology either exists or can be developed. But then the question is how does it make sense to deploy it? And this isn't my department.”
We could see this AI being utilised in the future but for now, a third party extension for Google Chrome has been created called the B.S. Detector. Daniel Sieradski, design technologist and creator of the extension commented: “I've compiled a list of domains that are well-known sources of fake news, conspiracy theory, innuendo, and unsourced claims. The domains cover the political spectrum from left to right and I have done my absolute best to be impartial in my selections.”
However Facebook recently blocked the third party extension from being shared, this aroused suspicion as the creator of B.S. Detector’s intentions was to show Facebook how easy it was to create a system which makes users aware of fake news sources. After this was reported by TechCrunch, Facebook commented: “We maintain a set of systems to help us detect and block suspicious behavior on our site. We temporarily blocked people from sharing the domain bsdetector.tech because of other abuse we have seen from the .tech top-level domain. We have corrected the error.”
The general consensus around Facebook creating its own ‘fake news detector’ system is complicated as it has to balance the platform’s freedoms with a pinch of salt when it comes to fake news aimed to spread fear or hatred. On the whole, Facebook denies responsibility for influencing the 2016 U.S. election but recognises something has to be done to prevent misinformation from spreading on the social network.