Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg learned the hard way that he was an unwitting dupe in the flood of fake news and conspiracy theories that saturated his social media site during the 2016 election. But he still doesn’t get it.
A new study by the Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla., has found that two of the leading purveyors of fake news and conspiracy theories–InfoWars and YourNewsWire– are still publishing freely on Facebook.
Jones, the conspiracy hate monger who has repeatedly defamed families of Sandy Hook elementary school massacre victims, as well as promoting other conspiracy theories, is being slammed by lawsuits, forcing him to admit he’s an “entertainer” rather than a journalist.
Yet, his fabricated news is still published in Facebook’s news feed.
YourNewsWire is less well known. It’s run by two Los Angeles conspiracy mongers who flood Facebook with hoaxes and conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked by fact-checking Web sites, according to the Poynter report.
“Despite being debunked at least 80 times, and having its posts fact-checked as false through Facebook’s fact-checking partnership at least 45 times, YourNewsWire is still publishing on the platform — amassing hundreds of thousands of engagements each month,” writes author Daniel Funke.
Following the 2016 election, Zuckerberg faced a firestorm of criticism. He was even hauled before Congress to testify and threatened with government regulation if he failed to clean up the social media site.
But he’s demonstrated more than once that he just doesn’t get it.
In the most recent row, he said in an interview with technology Web site Recode, that people who deny the holocaust should not be removed from the site.
He was forced to backtrack in the face of near universal condemnation. “Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services,” he said.
After the election, Zuckerberg promised to step up efforts to weed out fake news sites and fake news. But its track record has been spotty at best, the Poynter study found.
U.S. fact-checking organizations have been debunking fake news stories on Facebook since December 2016, when the tech company launched arguably its most visible effort to combat misinformation — a program in which independent fact-checkers are given access to a Facebook tool that shows them content users have reported as potentially false. Poynter’s analysis looked at stories debunked by Snopes, (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact, Factcheck.org and the Associated Press Fact Check from YourNewsWire and InfoWars since the launch of Facebook’s fact-checking partnership (all four U.S. organizations participate in the program).
“According to our analysis, Snopes, PolitiFact, Factcheck.org and the AP have debunked stories from YourNewsWire at least 80 times over the past year and a half. Of those, 45 were flagged in Facebook’s system, which alerts users to related fact checks before they share a link, Poynter reported.
By comparison, the same four fact-checkers have rated stories from InfoWars as false at least 28 times in the same time period. Only seven were flagged on Facebook, according to the Poynter analysis.
The problem is Facebook’s anti-misinformation policies don’t call for the suspension of a page for repeatedly publishing fake news if it doesn’t violate its community standards, which generally involves violence, graphic images and pornography.
BuzzSumo, a social media analytics tool, has also found that misleading pages are still amassing substantial reach on Facebook, in spite of being repeatedly debunked by fact-checkers, according to the article.
Zuckerberg needs to take more seriously the effort to curb fake news and conspiracies, or he’s asking for government regulation.
When Facebook began, it was supposed to be a platform for friends and families to keep in touch with each other. It’s a shame that it’s ballooned beyond that in a grab for social reach.
Check out Poynter for the full article.