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Facebook’s desperate for people to take its fake news fight seriously

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Facebook really, really wants you to know that it’s serious about fighting fake news. 

The social network today announced a series of efforts meant to change public perception of fake news on the platform, including a new “Inside Feed” website, a documentary-style short film, and a new ad campaign to help educate the public on how to identify fake news.

The company also plans to partner with researchers to study just how much “misinformation” is on Facebook and how it affects the platform. 

Much of this is similar to previous work Facebook’s done around fighting fake news and other types of misinformation. But if you’re wondering what the goal of all of this is, it’s the newly released short film that’s most illuminating.

Called “Facing Facts,” the 12-minute spot features interviews with Facebook employees discussing the many intricacies of the company’s fake news fight, interspersed with b-roll footage of Facebook employees looking intently at computers and writing on whiteboards. “There is no one consensus or source for truth,” one employee says early on. 

Later, other employees earnestly rehash many of the same themes we’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook execs discuss: that Facebook itself shouldn’t become the arbiter of what’s “true” and the need to work with reputable third-party fact checkers to stamp out hoaxes and other sources of fake news. 

But though the film provides a window into how Facebook approaches these issues, it’s less clear what, if anything, is actually changing as a result of these initiatives. As of today, there are no new policies in place and no major changes to the inner workings of News Feed (though the company has made several tweaks over the last few months).

Instead, Facebook’s opting to make its latest move more of a PR blitz (it hardly seems like a surprise that it’s coming one day after Zuckerberg frustrated European lawmakers with his lack of detailed answers to their questions around privacy, data misuse and, yes, fake news). 

Rather than coming up with new ways to fight spread of fake news, Facebook’s looking to prove the changes it’s already made are actually working. Or, barring that, convince the rest of us that it does actually care about the fight in the first place.

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