Did the fake news that spread like wildfire online help Donald Trump win the presidential election? Facebook still doesn't think so.
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of the massive social media platform, said in an interview on NBC's Today show on Thursday morning that fake news and hoaxes did not affect the outcome of November's general election and rejected the criticism Facebook has received for its alleged role in disseminating false information online. Analyses have shown fake news stories during the presidential campaign were shared more on Facebook than were real news stories, and the fake stories tended to be negative stories about Hillary Clinton.
"There've been claims that [fake news] swayed the election, and we don't think it swayed the election," Sandberg told Today's Savannah Guthrie. "But, we take that responsibility really seriously."
Facebook has said it is working to cut down on the proliferation of such faux articles and websites on its own platform. In the Thursday interview, Sandberg, who had been a Hillary Clinton supporter, also said that the U.S. election was the most discussed topic on Facebook worldwide this year, and for the second year in a row.
Sandberg's stance echoes the sentiments of Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has also rejected the notion that fake news on Facebook affected the election as a "pretty crazy idea." But, Zuckerberg has also promised a crack down on fake news that pops up on Facebook, pledging last month to work with third parties to label false news stories on the site and to develop a "stronger detection" system using artificial intelligence to sniff out those questionable posts.
Google made a similar pledge last month, when the online search giant said it will ban websites that push out fake news stories from using the company's online advertising service. The promises came amid an avalanche of media criticism regarding the spread of misinformation online, most of which originates from website operators both in the U.S. and overseas who post incendiary articles about U.S. politics in the hopes that they will go viral and produce advertising revenue.
Last week, a conspiracy theory referred to as "#Pizzagate" was blamed for inspiring a man armed with an assault rifle to show up at a Washington, D.C. pizza joint that fake news sites had falsely claimed to be the site of an international child abuse ring connected to Hillary Clinton.
On Today, Sandberg referred to Facebook's plans to cut down on the amount of fake news that appears on the website, noting that the company takes misinformation seriously and will work to make sure its users know when a posted article is merely a hoax.
"We've been working on this for a long time and we've taken important steps, but there's a lot more to do," Sandberg said. "We know that people don't want to see hoaxes on Facebook, and we don't want to see hoaxes on Facebook."