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Know All About Facebook’s Battle Against False Information

Image Source: rafapress / Shutterstock

Facebook made public that it is currently rolling out a variety of updates designed to combat the spread of falsified and damaging content on its platform, stepping up its fight against deceptive news and hateful language amidst growing external demands.

Several human rights organizations and legislators have criticized the social media behemoth for its unwitting involvement in the propagation of extremism and false news on both Facebook and Instagram. These updates will regulate the visibility of links suspected to be sensational or deceptive. Facebook is also bolstering its fact-checking initiative with external authoritative sources (e.g., Associated Press) to evaluate posts and other content shared on Facebook.

Meanwhile, during a separate hearing of a Senate subcommittee, representatives from Facebook were questioned regarding allegations of bias against conservative voices by social media platforms. These concurrent hearings highlight the delicate line that Facebook and other social media entities (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Instagram) must tread as they strive to eradicate harmful and objectionable content while steering clear of actions that could be construed as censorship.

The most recent vision of Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, emphasizing private, encrypted communications, is anticipated to pose challenges for the social media giant, particularly in dealing with problematic content. In a briefing with journalists at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, Guy Rosen, VP for integrity, acknowledged this obstacle. He emphasized the challenge of striking a balance between public safety and safeguarding individuals’ privacy as Facebook moves towards more private interactions.

He stressed that the company is committed to ensuring it operates at its best “as Facebook evolves into a platform for private communications.” However, he refrained from providing specific details. The company has already set up teams to monitor various posts for violating its policies against content that promotes violence, contains explicit sexual content, or qualifies as hate speech.

According to Karen Courington, who oversees product-support operations at Facebook, half of the 30,000 employees in the social media giant’s “safety and security” divisions are focused on content evaluation. She mentioned that content reviewers consist of both Facebook staff members and contractors but did not disclose the percentage breakdown. The company has been criticized for the work environment of content reviewers. These teams are under constant pressure, sifting through a stream of posts, videos, and images, and have to swiftly determine which should be removed or retained within minutes, if not seconds.

Courington mentioned that these individuals undergo 80 hours of training before beginning their roles and also receive “additional support,” including mental health resources. She also indicated that their pay exceeds the “industry standard” for such positions. Even when dealing with content that clearly violates company policies, Facebook employees are often left with the challenge of managing material in a gray area: content that does not breach rules but may be deemed offensive by a majority of viewers or is misleading. Facebook and similar platforms have endeavored to avoid the role of content editors and “truth arbiters,” often opting to keep such content online — albeit less prominently — when encountering these gray areas.

However, if Facebook recognizes that the information is incorrect, why doesn’t the company remove it? This inquiry was raised by Paul Barrett, deputy director at the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, believes that Facebook is grappling with a challenging dilemma. Nevertheless, he expressed satisfaction that the company is actively seeking input from journalists, researchers, and other experts for fact-checking purposes. Menczer has recently engaged with the company multiple times on the issue of misinformation.

Image Source: rafapress / Shutterstock

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