15 Minutes: Facebook’s Fake News Problem and a Possible Solution

As most of you know this is not my real job. This is something I do in my spare time, such as it is. When I want to write an article, I usually have to carve out several hours. That means that a lot of stuff doesn’t get written.

So I’m trying something different. Setting my timer for fifteen minutes and just writing. There will be spelling errors. There will be grammar errors. But something will get written and if I’m extremely fortunate it might even make a bit of sense.

So here we go, as I hit the timer.

To me the idea that the election for US president was swayed solely by Facebook seems silly. There were many factors, which will take historians decades to unravel. But putting all that aside it is absolutely true that Facebook has a problem letting fake news spread on its platform.

I’m not even sure WHY Facebook feels it needs to have trending news. But if it does, why isn’t it trying to learn from news search engines which have been around a while?

Google News and Bing News both have news search engines. Bing’s is quite good. Google’s is good too, though occasionally it has weird problems. Neither news search engine allows just any site to get indexed; there are requirements. Which means that both news search engines have an excellent list of verified and useful news sources.

Why doesn’t Facebook team up with one or both?

Algorithms and AI are all very nice, but don’t appear to be working for Facebook when it comes to vetting news. Why not compare the source of a news story against a database of verified news sources as supplied by Google and Bing? If the source matches, it gets one level of additional vetting. If it doesn’t match, it gets a deeper level of vetting and possibly (gasp!) human review. (As of April Facebook’s cash reserves were over $18 billion. Surely it can afford to hire a few more people.)

I suspect Bing and Google News don’t have every news source in the world in their search engines. But I can’t imagine that comparing all Facebook’s news flow against a list of verified news sources could do anything but good.

Why would Google and Bing even cooperate with such a scheme? Oh, I dunno, public good? Not a concept you hear a lot nowadays but very big on the Internet in the late 90s and early 00s’. If Facebook’ problem with fake news has made an impact to the extent that it has actually changed the course of an entire democracy, it seems to me that the tech giants would be willing to team up to try to correct the problem.

And if they won’t, perhaps journalism organizations could give Facebook lists of their members and a set of verified sites could be generated that way.

Maybe this is already happening, but if so I can’t see how it’s effectively being applied.

No matter what you believe about Facebook’s level of influence on the election, its problem with news fraud must be addressed. A platform which distributes so much false information is not good for its members and in the long run isn’t doing itself any good as a viable platform, either.

That’s my fifteen minutes. Thanks.

Categories: Rants

5 replies »

  1. If this is the result of 15 minutes of writing, I’m very impressed! Keep up the good work; love to hear you express your views with logic and humor.

  2. Good work for a 15-minute time frame. Do continue. Such outsider insights do provide perspective on the goings-on of the day.

  3. Bless you for this common-sense. Even more for reminding us that factual accuracy…call it TRUTH…is desirable, and necessary, and SHOULD be a value we work to achieve.

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