The Complexity of Combating Fake News


Last month, representatives from popular social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were talking about their difficulties in trying to combat fake news, hate speech and hate propaganda before an audience of lawyers and law students. They said that the problem is complex, which is why it has no easy answers.

Executives are not certain about the problem

During a panel discussion on the campus of Stanford University, the executives from YouTube (owned by Google), Facebook and Twitter told the audience that they are not certain how to address the problem. The panel, which focused on the challenges to democracy and the importance of free speech on the internet, revealed several important facts and figures. Twitter’s representative said his company is challenging about 6.4 million suspicious accounts per week to prevent the spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform.

He did not reveal the number of accounts that Twitter suspended, but he noted that the number was huge. (He did not specify, though, how the handlers of those suspended accounts were stopped from creating new accounts on the platform.) Moreover, he revealed that company has started tweaking its APIs to limit the use of multiple accounts. He said that this measure has resulted in a 90% decrease in the amount of automated malicious information.

When the representatives were asked if the U.S. Constitution should be amended to deal with the issues posed by the internet, Facebook’s representative indicated anxiety about this, as in this particular area, public conversation is driven more by anecdote and less by data, and the stakes are so high.

Does hate speech influence people?

The social networks’ representatives indicated that no one knows what the impact is of false information and hate speech. YouTube’s global head of public policy and government relations said that the issue has been overblown. She disputed the idea that democracy is dying, arguing that the issues related to hate speech and hate propaganda are recurrent themes in U.S. history.





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