One week after Facebook's Trending Topics algorithm promoted a false news story to millions of people, Mark Zuckerberg has publicly acknowledged the company could be "doing a better job filtering out false information or clickbait."
Zuckerberg made the statement in a Facebook post marking the 10th anniversary of News Feed.
Zuckerberg's post stopped short of saying how Facebook plans to combat fake news and hoaxes. But this marks the company's most high-profile acknowledgement that it has a fake news problem, and that previous efforts to combat it have not proven effective.
Zuckerberg also made the point that humans have a bias toward consuming information that aligns with our existing beliefs — and that this affects News Feed, too.
"It's not a perfect system," he said. "Research shows that we all have psychological bias that makes us tune out information that doesn't fit with our model of the world. It's human nature to gravitate towards people who think like we do."
Facebook has made tweaks to its News Feed algorithm over the years to combat what it calls clickbait, and to show you more items from your friends. But aside from launching a feature to allow users to flag false items in News Feed, the company has not announced a specific algorithmic approach to fighting fake news and hoaxes. (People at Facebook have also told BuzzFeed News they do not blacklist fake news sites, as this constitutes a form of censorship or editorial oversight they do not want to apply.)
Meanwhile a recent report by BuzzFeed News found that fake news sites continue to see strong engagement on Facebook.
While acknowledging the challenges News Feed has with fake news and clickbait, Zuckerberg argued Facebook still presents a more diverse set of topics and viewpoints than the average newspaper, TV news channel, or radio station.
"Before the internet, most people got their news from only a handful of newspapers, TV and radio stations," he said. "Different outlets made different editorial decisions, and it was easy to pick one you liked and stick with it."
He emphasized that point again in a reply to a comment. Zuckerberg said traditional media "have a single editorial view" while News Feed "encourages greater diversity."
Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.
Contact Craig Silverman at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.