World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Facebook pressured to review its handling of fake news

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Facebook pressured to review its handling of fake news

Among the innumerable articles discussing the issue, the piece by Max Read and published by the New York Magazine puts across the main points of the discussion. The chief argument raised against Facebook is its reluctance to address the rise of fake news on its platform, preferring to assume the role of a neutral medium where different opinions can be voiced.

Read, however, argues that Facebook’s reach (170 million daily users in North America alone) would “seem to demand some kind of civic responsibility — an obligation to ensure that a group of people more sizable than the American electorate is not being misled.”

Moreover, Read asserts that rather than just facilitating the spread of misinformation, Facebook has also made it easier for ideological alignments to create communities based on their beliefs, to an extent that was not possible in the era when mainstream companies dominated news coverage.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will work to improve the flagging of fake news on the platform, although he more or less dismissed the idea that Facebook could have had a significant role in the election results, arguing that “more than 99%” of what Facebook’s users see is authentic. Some are now contesting that figure, claiming that Zuckerberg downplays the prominence of fake news on Facebook.

Even if Zuckerberg is not keen to accept that Facebook has election-swaying influence, the public pressure and internal dynamics of the company may force his hand: the New York Times reports that Facebook’s executives have started to ask the question among themselves.

Buzzfeed reports that "more than dozens" Facebook employees had formed an unofficial task force to address the spread of fake news on Facebook, rebutting Zuckerberg's claim that fake news on the platform could have influenced the election.

According to Gizmodo, Facebook had a News Feed update in the works earlier this year that would have identified fake articles, but the update would have disproportionally reduced the prominance of right-wing news sources and was not released to public. 

Finally, there are more and more calls for Facebook to acknowledge its status as a media company, such as this opinion piece published by the New York Times. Meanwhile, Fortune gives reasons why Zuckerberg is seemingly reluctant to do so.

Facebook and Google are reportedly targeting fake news websites' revenue by updating the policies of their advertising networks. According to the New York Times, Google said it would ban fake news websites from using its advertising services, while Facebook said it would not show ads on fake news sites.

"Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance," Facebook's spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Wired reports on other ways Trump's campaign benefited from Facebook: it helped generate the majority of the campaign's fundraising, and was a critical part of the campaign's highly sophisticated, digital-first approach to advertising. 


Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson


2016-11-14 14:18

Author information

The news publishing industry is experiencing transformation at an ever-growing pace, with new policy issues arising as the landscape changes.

We will be examining policy discussions that will define the news publishing environment of the future, the key topics being internet governance, privacy and copyright. Click here to learn more about our work.

WAN-IFRA Media Policy team and experts.

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

Footer Navigation