How Facebook handles false content on their website has been vigorously debated. What has the company done against fake news and how are they faring?
Facebook is trying to give transparency to how they are fighting Fake News since users are subjectively under the impression that they are doing nothing. That’s why they published a 11-minute long video showing their work and their struggles.
The biggest issue with desinformation is sorting out which is true and which is not. Think of all the daily news coverage. What is objectively correct and what is not? The truth has sometimes the nasty feature of not complying with your opinion. That’s why there are many news which are subjectivly portraited, but not necessarily fake.
It would be catastrophic if Facebook would check every post and every picture uploaded to their site. Equally wrong is letting everybody publish whatever they want, e.g. pornographic content oder hate speech. There has to be a middle ground. But that leaves a lot to interpret what this middle ground is.
Not always black and white
There are not just lies and truths on Facebook. If it would have been that easy, we would’nt need this debate. But there is the problematic territory of propaganda: They use real statistics and real facts but conflate them with a manipulative context or cherry pick parts they like. That is a problem for Facebook: This propaganda is not necessarily false, it just misrepresents the truth.
Fake News can be seperated into different categories, like in this chart from the video:
All these things are often mingled, so Facebook needs a certain strategy to fight them. Which is why Facebook employs several teams which regularly communicate with each other.
There are basically three options: remove, reduce and inform:
Facebook clarifies that you always will be seeing hate speech and clickbait in your timelime, no matter their effort, since it could be your friends who spread them. They will never be able to ban all of this content.
The challenge: pictures and videos
Text is easily checked by algorithms, but what about pictures and videos? Facebook is facing this widespread challenge to identify fake news spread via graphic content.
How is that going to work?
Similiarly to articles there will be a specific algorithm checking graphic content. It uses different automated methods like a online image search to see if that image had already been used elsewhere.
Suspicious pictures and videos get forwarded to extern fact checkers to investigate further. These fact checkers are specialized on the examination of graphic content, e.g. using meta data to check for publication dates and places. They’re being supported by experts, scientists and government agencies. The more evaluations are being fed into the system by fact checkers, the better the systems learns to detect future fake content.
The algorithm uses for example an OCR mechanism. With that text in graphics is being recognized and cross referenced with text from other articles to check for its validity. Furthermore, Facebook is working on techniques to detect rigged pictures even before they are being sent to fact checkers.
How does Facebook categorize potential fakes and hoaxes?
Usually fakes and hoaxes are divided into three categories:
Facebook is working together with indepentent fact checkers to further refine their algorithms. But it’s still a long way to have Fake News vanish automatically. And there is also the possibility that reports on Fake News themselves are wrongly deemed fake since they have to use the forged pictures themselves.
To improve the system as much as possible Facebook is looking for new partners and further refining their algorithm which is in use since 13th September 2018.