March 18, 2020
After the US Presidential Election, many were furious at Facebook for helping to spread fake news. People were sharing stories that had little or no basis in reality, fuelling concerns that many votes were based on false beliefs. There was also the concern that it could lead to potentially violent incidents, as did happen. To combat the spread of fake news, it was recently revealed that Facebook would be using AI to help clamp down on illegitimate sources of news. Let’s examine what this means.
The US Election season sees a flurry of articles, all of it drenched in intense emotional responses due to the stakes involved. It’s very hard for any middle ground to be reached, as people firmly believe their party or candidate is right. In this volatile atmosphere, with people more prepared to spread outrage than interrogating sources, fake news can spread like wildfire. Facebook came under a lot of fire because it served as a way for fake news to spread easily. As Gizmodo summarized:
“Critics have accused the social network of allowing false and hoax news stories to run rampant, with some suggesting that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump’s election by letting hyper-partisan websites spread false and misleading information.”
Whatever one’s position or preferred candidate, everyone can agree truth is better than fiction. You want to support or oppose someone for what they actually did, not on what a fake news site said they did. Of course, fake news is nothing new, but it is finding new ground that we have a chance of controlling. Facts should matter when making decisions since it actually deals with the real world. Otherwise, you’d just be making bad decisions.
NY Mag’s Max Read put the fault of fake news, admittedly hyperbolically, at Facebook’s feet stating that Facebook’s mechanisms for distribution as well as it’s gigantic audience, “makes it the only site to support a genuinely lucrative market in which shady publishers trade traffic by enticing people off Facebook and onto ad-festooned websites, using stories that are alternately made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three.”
How right Read is, is up for debate. However, this is merely a comprehensive overview of the challenge many have said Facebook faces. And Facebook itself is responding. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the social media giant is using artificial intelligence (AI) to help combat the spread of fake news. With machine learning and other advanced functions, it’s hoped that this new system can whittle down sources of fake news so that no one can spread it to those within their circles.
Many critics have highlighted that Facebook’s refusal to intervene is irresponsible. After all, if other media sites have internal processes to determine good and bad sources, Facebook should too. Mark Zuckerberg had consistently opposed the view that Facebook is a media company to dismiss these claims but recently might’ve come around.
As the Guardian reported, Zuckerberg said: “We don’t write the news that people read on the platform. But at the same time we also know that we do is a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.”
This helps solidify the point that Facebook is taking its opposition to fake news and encouragement of proper sources seriously. With machine learning and proper implementation of artificial intelligence, they may have a powerful method to do so. As we’ve said before, you can and must consider using AI to enhance your customer experience. If Facebook is doing it, it may be time for other businesses to follow.