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Facebook could’ve curbed fake news via an update but chose to protect conservative agenda instead

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While the populous is busy playing the blame game for the presidential election result, Facebook and the problem of fake news content on the platform have been caught in the crossfire. But, over the past week, the integrity of the news feed has been defended more than once by the founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

He has not only mentioned that 99 percent content on the platform is authentic but also that its ‘pretty crazy’ to think that even a minimal amount of fake news affected the election outcome. He defended the platform stating people tend to believe what’s important to them and that the teams back at the headquarters were working on a fix for the plaguing issue. But there is no end to this long running debate and a fresh Gizmodo report has only acted as fuel for the already fierce fire.

This report suggests that Facebook planned to release another ‘major’ update for the news feed after chopping down on hoaxes in the news feed via user flagging and feedback last year. Sources privy to the developments told the publication that internal teams at the social media behemoth have been locked in a battle to decide how they want to approach fake news and hoaxes. They claim that the team had even come up with an update which could identify and curb the problem of hoax stories but this update wasn’t released to the public. Why?

Well, it seems that Facebook was concerned with the visibility of conservative news content on the platform. The proposed update would have not only curbed fake stories on the social network but also disproportionately downplayed(or removed) conservative content from user’s news feeds. Thus, due to such reservations, the update was cancelled. There is currently no word on whether it had other deficiencies as well.

They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news. There was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics [and] a lot of product decisions got caught up in that,

said the anonymous source.

With regard to nixing the planned news feed update, a Facebook spokesperson has dispensed the following comment:

The article’s allegation is not true. We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party. We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes.

Mark himself said “I want to do everything I can to make sure our teams uphold the integrity of our products.” This includes continuously review updates to make sure we are not exhibiting unconscious bias.

While Facebook has already denied the report, the source seems to suggest that the plan to release the said update was willfully cancelled to accommodate the needs of the conservatives. A few months ago, the social media giant had been caught in a similar hubbub surrounding ‘Trending Topics’ that appear on the right of the news feed.

These trending stories came under scrutiny from users for constantly suppressing stories supporting conservative agendas. Thus, Zuck ultimately decided that it was time to cut short the trending section and get rid of human editors in favor of an algorithmic approach. But the company has still been unable to cap the inflow of fake news into the same and is now facing backlash for its practices.

Facebook, however, now plans to introduce AI to the mix to support user feedback on the content surfacing on the platform. The company had till date been relying on the power of the user to determine if the news was fake or not.

A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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