Just a week ago, Mark Zuckerberg was calling it a "crazy idea" that a proliferation of fake news stories on Facebook, most of them favoring a conservative bias, helped Donald Trump win the election. But after a growing chorus of critics including some within Facebook itself have called on the company to own up to its role in the War on Truth, Zuck has reversed course with a late-night post on Friday. "The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously. Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information," he writes. "We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously."
As the New York Times notes, Zuckerberg may have been feeling the heat especially following comments President Obama made at a news conference Wednesday about combating fake news on Facebook.
And he doesn't give us anything definitive in terms of Facebook's plans, but rather he offers up a few options they'll be exploring to address the proliferation of fake news, including posting warnings next to posts that have been flagged by users, and making it easier for users to report fake news.
But frankly, Zuck still sounds out of his depth, much as he did in addressing prior outcries about liberal bias in the site's Trending Topics feed, as the social network slowly comes to terms with its role as a media company.
The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically. We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.
Facebook is obviously afraid of pissing off the half of the country that did vote for Trump by cracking down on the arguably less than accurate news that gets shared from sources like Fox News. And, indeed, alt-right website Breitbart has already called out this outcry from the Clinton-voting half of the country, posting an article last week titled "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Attacked by Left for Lacking Bias to Help Hillary Win."
So will Facebook be able to handle an uncertain future in which much of the country relies on them for their links to news while they resist installing the infrastructure necessary to being a news source?
At least this week Facebook said it would stop taking ads from fake news sources, and among the measures Zuckerberg said they would be taking was "disrupting the economics [of fake news]... and better ad farm detection."
Meanwhile, Wired has a weird proposal to address Facebook's news problem, which is essentially to disallow national news altogether and only allow local news to be shared, which would be more easily verifiable. Which... how would that work exactly?