Facebook Announces New System for Counteracting “False News.” I’m Suspicious

The Associated Press reports:

Facebook says it is changing how it identifies “fake news” stories on its platform to a more effective system.

The social-media network had put “disputed” labels on stories that fact-checkers found false. Instead, now it will bring up “related articles” next to the false stories that give context from fact-checkers on the stories’ problems.

The new system should also be faster, as now only a single “fact checker,” rather than two as was previously required, can identify a story as fake and move to counteract it.

Facebook’s own description of the change is here. Interestingly, unlike the AP, Facebook doesn’t use the term “fake news,” which President Trump has made his own. Facebook refers to targets of its new system as “false news.” If “false news” shows up on a user’s timeline, Facebook’s fact checkers will surround it with alternative facts. They also will use Facebook’s algorithm to ensure that “false news” is not widely circulated.

Also, while the details aren’t clear, the new system will allow Facebook’s “fact checkers” to label some news stories as “true,” and possibly add other designations such as “unproven.”

It enables us to show fact checkers’ stories even when the rating isn’t “false” — if fact-checkers confirm the facts of an article, we now show that, too.

This is what the new system will look like. Click to enlarge:

Facebook uses an article about an alien landing to illustrate false news. But I am pretty sure that during the 2018 election season, Facebook’s “fact checkers” won’t just be on the lookout for such National Enquirer-type fabrications. My concern is that, for example, if someone shares an article saying that the GOP tax bill lowered taxes for 80% of Americans, Facebook may cut down on the frequency with which that story appears on users’ time lines, and when it does appear, surround it with Democratic Party talking points.

Is that concern well-founded? Facebook’s fact checkers are nearly all liberal groups like PolitiFact, which, as we have repeatedly shown, is often wrong when it purports to correct Republicans. Facebook added one conservative fact checker, the Weekly Standard, which prompted complaints from liberals that the Weekly Standard is itself a purveyor of fake news.

The linked article identifies the Facebook employees behind the new “false news” system as Jeff Smith, Product Designer, Grace Jackson, User Experience Researcher, and Seetha Raj, Content Strategist. Do they have a political point of view? It would seem so. Jeff Smith’s Twitter feed identifies him as a cookie-cutter liberal. Here are just a few examples:

I couldn’t find anything relevant on Grace Jackson, but Seetha Raj’s Facebook page indicates that she, too, is a liberal:

Now, these Facebook employees and the “fact checkers” they recruit may be perfectly nice people, and they are entitled to their political views. But I don’t want liberals designing a system that will be implemented almost entirely by other liberals to tell Facebook users what news stories are, in their opinion, true or false–or, perhaps, proven or unproven.

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