Facebook: 'We do not think of ourselves as editors' but we may label fake news

DKnQdj lPatrick Walker.Facebook’s head of media partnerships for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Patrick Walker.

Facebook says that it wants to get rid of fake news and hoaxes on its platform. But its plan to do so does not involve hiring human editors or giving special treatment to certain publications over others.

The social network is instead exploring other ways of battling misinformation, like placing warning labels on fake stories and working with third-party fact checkers, according to Patrick Walker, Facebook’s head of media partnerships for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“We do not think of ourselves as editors,” Walker said during a Thursday presentation at the News Xchange conference in Dublin. “We believe it’s essential that Facebook stay out of the business of deciding what issues the world should read about. That’s what editors do.”

Facebook has received heated criticism in the wake of the U.S. presidential election for allowing fake news stories, like one that falsely said the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, to be widely shared on its network.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently outlined several steps the company is taking to clamp down on the spread of misinformation, which Walker restated during his presentation on Thursday.

Facebook largely relies on its users to report content that is either offensive or misleading, Walker explained. He said that content on Facebook is reported to the company’s content review team over one million times per day. A recent NPR investigation found that Facebook contractors typically have to make decisions about whether to allow or remove a piece of flagged content every 10 seconds.

Some have suggested that Facebook could adopt Google’s approach and greenlight certain publications who apply to be labelled as authorised news outlets. Walker said that approach wouldn’t work because of Facebook’s international scale and varying “standards of publishing” across different countries.

“Giving a blanket pass to all editors would bring its own problems,” he said. “News organisations in different parts of the world have very, very different standards of publishing.”

“Identifying the truth is complicated business,” he said.

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