After a week of accusations that fake news posts influenced the outcome of the presidential race, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg maintained Friday that, “the percentage of misinformation is relatively small,” but outlined how he is working to mitigate it.
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg mentioned prospects of stronger detection, options for users to flag potentially fake stories and also a warning system that would label them, as well as the possibility of raising the standards for related articles that are suggested after each post. He described the issue as complex because it puts him in a position to arbitrate freedom of speech.
“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” he wrote. “While the percentage of misinformation is relatively small, we have much more work ahead on our roadmap.”
His statement came after media outlets reported on allegations by critics that fake news helped President-elect Donald Trump win the election. Initially, Zuckerberg dismissed the concept as a “pretty crazy idea.”
Then he said in a longer statement that more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic, and that the other 1 percent is not always a political hoax.
“Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Nov. 12.
But Facebook’s top executives have stilll been questioning their role in the outcome.
And the power of fake news on Facebook is hard to gauge.
A Pew Research Center survey estimated that 44 percent of the general population gets its news from Facebook, which it also stated is by far the largest social networking site, reaching 67 percent of U.S. adults. And an analysis by BuzzFeed found that false election stories outperformed real news in engagement during the last three months leading up to the election.
President Barack Obama said in Germany on Thursday that, “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media, where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
“His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist,” he said. “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.”
Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, also told the New York Times that there is no denying the influence of fake news.
“A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Tufekci said of a post on Facebook. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”
Zuckerberg’s statement on Friday was the first to outline potential steps toward helping the problem. He published it after he landed in Lima, Peru for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He gave a keynote address there on Saturday, where he mostly talked about expanding access to the internet. But he also touched on the fake news issue.
“We can work to give people a voice, but we also need to do our part to stop the spread of hate, and violence, and misinformation,” he said.
You can read Zuckerberg’s full statement below.