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article imageOp-Ed: Facebook to introduce flagging of fake news

By Ken Hanly     Dec 15, 2016 in Internet
Facebook is making good on its promise to try to eradicate "fake news". One of the techniques Facebook will use for doing so is a tool that will allow users to flag anything that they consider to be fake news.
The 1.8 billion users of Facebook will be able to click the upper right-hand corner in any post to flag the content as fake news. There is one huge problem right off the bat according to an article in Zero Hedge. Not all posts can be flagged, only those not from "legitimate news sources". Which outlets are legitimate news sources and why? Even if a new source has an excellent reputation it can still carry fake news especially if the news is produced by the government as in the coverage of the issue of Hussein's having WMD. Zero Hedge asks of the list of legitimate news outlets: ".. does it include the likes of NYTs and the WaPos, which during the runup to the election declared on a daily basis, that Trump has no chance of winning, which have since posted defamatory stories about so-called "Russian propaganda news sites", admitting subsequently that their source data was incorrect, and which many consider to be the source of "fake news". " Who exactly would make the determination of which sites are legitimate news sites? The elimination of legitimate news sites from flagging blocks users from identifying any fake news reports on these sites. Yet these are the very sites that people have become more skeptical about.
The many remaining sites will be subject to a type of "crowd sourced" censorship in which as a result of flagging by members of the crowd of Facebook users a post can then be reviewed by Facebook researchers and then relayed to a fact-checking organization for further verification or it could be marked as false. Zero Hedge wonders what this process could evolve into in practice: ".. how much good will checking will take place considering that these "researchers" will be bombarded with tens of thousands of flagged articles daily, until it ultimately become a rote move to simply delete anything flagged as false by enough disgruntled readers, before moving on to the next article, while in the process not touching the narrative spun by the liberal "legitimate news outlets", the ones who would jump at the opportunity to have dinner with Podesta in hopes of becoming Hillary Clinton's public relations arm. " As I understand it, flagged articles are not deleted.
Adam Mosseri, Facebook vice-president of News Feed said in a blog post: "We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully." Yet in selecting "legitimate news sources" as not subject to crowd-sourced flagging, Facebook has been already an arbiter of truth.
If a story is determined by fact-checkers to be fake the item will still appear and can even be shared however there will be a warning and you can connect through a link to know why. The stories cannot be promoted or turned into advertisements and will no doubt appear lower in News Feed.
The fake news issue trended just days after the election. At the time, Facebook head Zuckerberg said that it was "pretty crazy" to think that fake news could have influenced the election. He said that Facebook "must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth". However as pointed out earlier by eliminating the legitimate news services from flagging, Facebook is already an arbiter of truth. The Facebook team claims it does not want "censorship" but it is carrying out something similar in a crowd-sourced vetting process supplemented by fact-checking. While posts are not deleted they are clearly downgraded.
The fact-checkers are working under the banner of the Poynter International Fact-Checking Network, a group that also owns the Tampa Bay Times. However, the Tampa Bay Times in no doubt a legitimate news outlet so they need not worry about being fact-checked. Those working as fact-checkers will follow the Poynter principles. Facebook's plans can be found here.
After finishing this article. I checked some of the articles about the new techniques being used by Facebook. I found no reference to legitimate news sources being an exception to the flagging. I then read the Zero Hedge article and it actually gives a link to NBC news as mentioning that legitimate news sources would not be flagged. However, I could find no place in the article that claimed this. Perhaps, this is partially fake news. Lets see! If all posts are included, the system could be a great job creator for fact-checkers.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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