Can Facebook’s Fake News Problem Be Solved?

Almost two years ago, the problem of fake news on Facebook landed on the public radar.  In his recent testimony before the Commerce and Judiciary committees of the U.S. Senate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed data privacy, fake news, and Russian disinformation on the social media platform. Zuckerberg apologized for the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach and defended the social network in the data piracy controversy.

Three ways to fix Facebook’s fake news problem

Facebook has been quite slow to agree that it has an issue with fake news on its news feed, which is viewed by about 1.18 billion people daily. Here are some solutions that media experts, technology experts and academics have given to solve the false news problem –

  1. Human Editors – Several experts believe that human editing, which depends on a trained professional to evaluate a news article before it is streamed, could help address the fake news issue. Proponents say that human editing is much better than algorithms (which Facebook currently uses). There is evidence that Facebook’s algorithms can easily be confused by complex editorial decisions. However, hiring people is not easily scalable– it would require too many people to do the job, making it cost-prohibitive. Also, it would not be possible for people to edit and stream content quickly.
  2. Crowdsourcing – Crowdsourcing, where the firm mobilizes the crowd to provide a solution to the challenge, is another option. This option would open up the evaluation and assessment process to the public. People would be able to apply for a “verified news checker” status that enables them to rank the news as they read it. This is similar to the way Wikipedia works, and could be a better option than hiring human editors. In addition to this, Facebook could avoid possible accusations of bias by using crowdsourcing, because anyone can be part of this solution.
  3. Machine learning or algorithmic vetting – This is the approach which Facebook currently uses. In 2016, the tech giant fired its human editors’ team to replace them with an algorithm. This option, however, is not working because it is still unable to identify fake news and satire. But Facebook says that it is working on its technology. Also, we cannot ignore that algorithms are much easier and cheaper to handle than human beings.

These are some of the options open to Facebook to fight the phenomenon of fake news. Facebook’s CEO said recently that hiring more people with local language skills could help in identifying potential problems faster as well.

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