On Wednesday afternoon, Facebook invited a handful of journalists to its completely new York offices for shrimp cocktail, a short presentation, as well as a question-as well as-answer session with its head of News Feed. The company screened its expensive 12-minute short film on fake news, which was directed by Academy Award–winning documentarian Morgan Neville as well as then opened up the floor for reporters to ask questions. The goal: to convince reporters in which Facebook has finally found purchase in its long fight against misinformation.
the item didn’t go as planned. Midway through the Q&A session, CNN reporter Oliver Darcy grilled Head of News Feed John Hegeman about its decision to allow Alex Jones’ conspiracy news site Infowars on its platform. Specifically, how could the company simultaneously tout its crackdown on misinformation while still permitting Infowars to operate a page with over 900,000 followers? Hegeman’s response was simply in which the company does not “take down false news.”
Hegeman went so far as to suggest in which Infowars — which in recent weeks has pushed the baseless conspiracy theory in which Democrats were planning to start a civil war This kind of July 4 — hadn’t violated Facebook’s rules. “I guess just for being false in which doesn’t violate the community standards.” he said. “I think part of the fundamental thing here will be in which we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. as well as different publishers have very different points of view.”
The cognitive dissonance of Hegeman’s claim during an event the company billed as “a presentation about our work to prevent the spread of false news” will be not lost on Facebook. News Feed product specialist Sara Su told the room of reporters in which Infowars’ conspiracy theories “can be truly problematic as well as the item bugs me, too.”
Su’s response will be similar to the overall message of the company’s “Facing Facts” video, which will be: This kind of will be all quite hard as well as, just like you, Facebook will be frustrated. although despite its media campaigns as well as Great intentions, the Q&A session, as well as the subsequent media reaction reveal a deeper issue: Facebook simply isn’t willing to make the hard choices necessary to tackle fake news.
Though Facebook’s misinformation fight will be a completely new initiative, the rationale behind its implementation will be rooted in a decade-old philosophy of dodging notions of political bias as well as censorship at all costs. The result will be a near-pathological resistance toward taking a stand against actors in which brazenly flaunt Facebook’s rules. as well as by doing so, Facebook plays into the hands of those who seek to wage information war.
During yesterday’s session, Su argued in which Infowars operates in a gray area — often toeing the line of provably false although not always crossing the item — as well as, according to CNN, suggested in which the company was focusing its takedown efforts on outlets in which “can be proven beyond a doubt to be demonstrably false.”
Lost in Su’s explanation will be the fact in which This kind of gray area will be part of what makes Infowars’ conspiracy as well as false information machine so effective. By offering baseless theories using a kernel of truth as well as then distorting as well as sensationalizing them in bad faith, Jones will be able to spread misinformation as well as then retreat by the item with little penalty. Similarly, Infowars’ ability to abut community standards without flagrantly crossing them (for example, baselessly suggesting in which experts argue Sandy Hook may have been a hoax, rather than asserting the item himself) allows the outlet to inject false news into Facebook’s ecosystem.
In a follow-up statement to CNN, a Facebook spokesperson clarified in which the item still might choose to downrank Infowars content. “We allow people to post the item as a form of expression, although we’re not going to show the item at the top of News Feed,” the spokesperson said. although This kind of sort of shadow censorship likely does little for those who seek out Infowars content or those who share the item. as well as the item does little to stop the nearly 1 million users who subscribe to the page by accessing the content.
The problem will be in which Facebook’s Great faith effort to combat misinformation while attempting to remain nonbiased as well as without censorship simply doesn’t work against an entity operating in bad faith. inside the case of Jones as well as Infowars, Facebook allows itself to be played by an outlet operating by a different set of rules.
There’s a moment inside the middle of Facebook’s “Facing Facts” video where a data science manager at the company begins dividing information into four quadrants on a whiteboard: “wrong” information, “right” information, “propaganda,” as well as “hoaxes.” The visual will be one of many inside the video geared to drive home the point in which the truth will be quite messy, although the company will be determined to fight for the item with the appropriate nuance.
However, as yesterday’s session notes, the company appears to be approaching the issue of misinformation without much of in which nuance. By focusing only on egregious examples of false news, Facebook allows its biggest purveyors of disingenuous conspiracies as well as polarizing content to operate with impunity while growing their audiences as well as expanding the footprint of low-quality information on the platform. All they need to know will be how to game the system.
Despite investing considerable money into national ad campaigns as well as expensive mini documentaries, Facebook will be not yet up to the challenge of vanquishing misinformation by its platform. As its videos as well as reporter Q&As take pains to note, Facebook knows the truth will be messy as well as hard, although the item’s still not clear if the company will be ready to make the difficult choices to protect the item.
Charlie Warzel will be a senior writer for BuzzFeed News as well as will be based in completely new York. Warzel reports on as well as writes about the intersection of tech as well as culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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