After facing intense criticism following the U.S. presidential election, Facebook executives are stating their commitment to cracking down on so-called fake news. Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook's vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is the latest exec to underscore that the company is taking a number of steps to tackle the issue.
"There has been a lot of conversation in the last few days about fake news on Facebook," Mendelsohn said, in an interview with Bloomberg in London on Monday. "The amount of news that is on our site that is, as you would call it, 'fake news,' is very small. But we're not satisfied with that because we want to make sure that people are seeing the information that matters most to them."
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The comments followed a post late last week from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who outlined a bevy of new initiatives to crack down on fake or misleading news. Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of the election, primarily from left-leaning critics arguing that huge volumes of false news spread on the site and influenced the electorate, perhaps contributing to Donald Trump’s victory.
Zuckerberg, despite previously rejecting such arguments, wrote in his statement that “we take misinformation seriously.” He said Facebook will develop “stronger detection” through technical systems—that is, artificial intelligence and machine learning programs that can rank sources by trustworthiness. That could look something like the approach of university-based Trust Project, which has developed a metric that rates outlets according to their consistency and reputation, reporters’ expertise, and diversity of perspectives.
Mendelsohn, for her part, noted that Facebook users have the power to block information they don't want to see. Still, she added, "we take this area very seriously and we see it as a responsibility," adding that the issue is something the company has been "looking at for a while."
Mendelsohn also said Facebook is "committed to absolutely making sure that it is a safe environment" for its 1.8 billion users. She said the company wants to insure that its users are getting information from friends or family members "that they choose" as well as "the different news sources."
Facebook has a new policy of banning purveyors of misinformation from advertising on the site. That’s a small step towards a bigger goal of, in Zuckerberg’s words, “disrupting fake news economics.”