With questions swirling about whether the spread of fake news on Facebook influenced the US presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the topic in a post Saturday night. A wave of false news stories shared on Facebook in the run up to the election has been a source of controversy.
In a post to his Facebook page, Zuckerberg said that Facebook doesn't want people spreading hoaxes on its platform, he also appeared to ask for patience with the company's pace fighting it. "This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though," Zuckerberg said. "Identifying the 'truth' is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted."
Indeed, while some articles floating around online are clear fabrications, others sport sensationalist headlines and wrap a stories loosely around facts, while adding fabrications. These hoaxes make fighting the genre a difficult undertaking, with lots of grey area. And Facebook's hasn't registered a conclusive victory in its fight against it.
In January 2015, Facebook pledged to fight the spread of fake news on its platform, but its results have been uneven since. But a BuzzFeed News examination of nine top fake news sites in April 2016 found that some fake articles were still being shared widely in the year following the pledge.
On Thursday Zuckerberg called the notion that fake news influenced the election a "pretty crazy idea," and Saturday night he changed the characterization to "extremely unlikely."
Authentic content makes up more than 99% of what people see on Facebook, Zuckerberg said. But with nearly 1.8 billion users each month, one percent, or even a slice of it, could make a difference in the way people using Facebook see the world.
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Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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