Facebook plan to combat fake news draws scepticism

Social media experts have expressed doubts over the effectiveness of Facebook’s plan to combat fake news by surveying users on what news sources they find trustworthy.

In a post on his personal page on Friday evening, Facebook’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to make sure news consumed on the platform was from “high quality and trusted sources”.

“There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” wrote Zuckerberg.

“Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don’t specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them.”

Zuckerberg’s plan to combat misinformation spread on the platform involves asking Facebook’s users whether they find particular news sources trustworthy.

Facebook, which is not expected to release the results of the survey, hopes that the results will “shift the balance of news” seen by users towards sources that are determined to be trustworthy.

However, social media analysts had reservations over the effectiveness of the plan, questioning whether this was the best way to go about tackling the issue.

Technology analyst Larry Magid told Al Jazeera’s NewsGrid that the survey risked taking into account opinions formed from prejudices against, or preference, for certain outlets instead of whether they were trustworthy or accurate.

“Simply because something is well liked by a percentage of the public, doesn’t mean it’s reliable,” he said.

“There are people who love news sites that are objectively untrue – that doesn’t require an opinion, that’s something you can establish by fact,” added Magid.

Magid explained that it was encouraging that Facebook had chosen to survey a representative sample but others were more blunt with their criticism of the plan.

Matt Navarra, the Head of Social Media at The Next Web, tweeted: “Facebook announces it will start asking users to decide which publishers are trustworthy in order to filter out news content. The same Facebook users who constantly fail to spot Fake News and share it widely.”

Not all analysts, however, were critical of the move. Renee DiResta, policy lead at Data for Democracy, said Facebook’s decision was “great news and a long time coming”.

“Google has been ranking for quality for a long time, it’s a bit baffling how long it took for social networks to get there,” she wrote on Twitter.

Concerns about so-called fake news have grown in tandem with the spread of social media.

The term is used to refer to deliberate publication and sharing of misinformation by ideologically motivated internet trolls and governments, but has also been used by politicians to dismiss critical coverage.

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