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article imageFacebook hiring two staff to ferret out fake news

By Ken Hanly     Jun 9, 2018 in Internet
Facebook is looking for one English and one Spanish speaker who were originally described as a "news credibility specialist" but this was changed to "news publisher specialist". Whatever they are called they are to filter out fake news from Facebook.
After the news media, including the Guardian, discovered the postings and wrote about them it appears that they were edited.
The original postings
Originally according to the Guardian the postings said that Facebook was looking to hire two people with "a passion for journalism, who believe in Facebook's mission to make the world more connected" Applicants were informed that their job would be "developing "a deep expertise in Facebook News Credibility Program" and would also be "conducting investigations against predefined policies". The description appears to have been changed to not give away the fact that the job will be in effect a form of filtering out "fake news" which to some will no doubt appear as a form of censorship.
Filtering news has been problematic for Facebook
Earlier Facebook had an editorial team that filtered news that was supposed to be neutral. However, some conservatives claimed there was a bias against conservative views. Some leftists made a similar claim about their views. Facebook eventually fired the team and hired Poynter International Fact-Checking Network members Snopes and Politifact to both identify hoaxes and discourage people from sharing them.
It would seem that Facebook may be attempting to at least in part bring the job of fact-checking back in-house even though this will leave them open to charges of bias and blame for making errors whereas the independent checkers would otherwise be subject to the same criticisms. However, some of the independent fact-checkers may not like to be bound by Facebook procedures creating tensions between them and Facebook. There are some questions as to how reliable some fact-checkers are.
WIkipedia's description of Snopes is almost all positive: " /snoʊps/, formally known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is one of the first online fact-checking websites. It has been termed a "well-regarded source for sorting out myths and rumors" on the internet.. It has also been seen as a source for validating and debunking urban legends and similar stories in American popular culture."
An article in the Daily Mail paints an entirely different picture in its usual sensational style. After the messy divorce of the two founders David and Barbara Mikkelson, he married a former escort and porn actress and she is now one of the company's staff members. Both David and Barbara accuse each other of financial impropriety.
Kalev Leetaru wrote an article in Forbes about his attempt to get Snopes to refute the claims made in the Daily Mail. He noticed that none of the mainstream press picked up on the piece and he took this as a sign that the article was another example of sensational fake news. He was surprised when he contacted Snopes by email. He expected to get a reply that showed point by point how each of the claims made by the Mail were false. However, no such reply ever came. When he asked again he was told that many of the points could not be answered because of David's divorce settlement. In another words, the truth had to remain secret. Leetaru was unable to get much information as to how workers were hired or about the processes used to determine if news were fake.
Leetaru concludes: Regardless of whether the Daily Mail article is correct in its claims about Snopes, at the least what does emerge from my exchanges with Snopes’ founder is the image of the ultimate black box presenting a gleaming veneer of ultimate arbitration of truth, yet with absolutely no insight into its inner workings. While technology pundits decry the black boxes of the algorithms that increasingly power companies like Facebook, they have forgotten that even the human-powered sites offer us little visibility into how they function."
Algorithms too are often biased. As an article written some time ago notes biased algorithms are everywhere.
UPDATE: Fred Walton pointed out that I left out an important recent development. The Atlantic Council is partnering with Facebook to help them weed out fake news especially during elections.
Facebook teams up with the Atlantic Council
Katie Harbath, the global politics and government outreach director for Facebook said: “Experts from their Digital Forensic Research Lab will work closely with our security, policy, and product teams to get Facebook real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. This will help increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”
This all sounds fine but for Sputnik News it just means filtering out news that contradicts the anti-Russian ideology of most western countries and NATO. However the New York Times, hardly a purveyor of Russian propaganda is also critical: "The Atlantic Council, which has seen its annual revenue grow to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade, offers access to United States and foreign government officials in exchange for contributions. Individual donors, like FedEx, have also helped fund specific reports that align with their agendas." The Atlantic Council is anything but neutral in spite of all its "expertise".
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