Fake news, a real problem for Facebook

Thirteen years after its creation, Facebook has become a place of mass consumption of all kinds of content: games, videos, images and also news articles. Every day, the social network is used by 1.2 billion people worldwide, including 23 million in Italy. However, Facebook is not just a social network where users simply share content and discuss, it is one of the most widely used sources of information for the general public. For the 18-24 years old, social networks are even the first way to keep abreast of the news, in front of television. What happens there is therefore not without impact on the moods, the opinions and the political choices of the citizen-users.

But a lot of the information conveyed by Facebook is false. It was especially during and after the American presidential campaign that such an observation was made and that the social network was strongly criticized. Accused, according to his detractors, of having allowed to proliferate false informations on its network, having been able to favor Trump and its “fake news”. Facebook has decided to implement various measures, such as independent fact-checkers to control and limit the spread of false informations.

What is the reality of the phenomenon of false informations circulating on Facebook ?

By observing the way Facebook works it quickly becomes clear that the social network delivers a misleading view of reality. Operating through algorithms that select the most likely elements to interest individuals, Facebook presents a different face to each user. Indeed, resulting from a combination of his tastes, comments left, pages followed, time spent on certain contents and the identity of his friends, the Facebook news feed of an individual is unique. But the manipulation does not end there.

The phenomenon of false informations does not take exactly the same form anywhere in the world. In the United States and in the English-speaking countries, these false reports mainly took place during the Trump campaign in the form of sharing articles from sites deemed to be “fake news”, which flourished during the American elections such as the ” National Report “or” Empire News “.

However in Europe such sites do not yet have real equivalences. At the time of the presidential elections in France, the French newspaper “Libération” decided to conduct its own investigation on the subject, analyzing the most viral posts on the Facebook pages, results: “no hoax or false informations proper “. However, many articles are biased or have deceptive titles. Indeed, some sites simply re-publish serious articles from traditional media but re-title them in their own way. It is therefore in this choice of title that manipulation begins and that they spread their ideology.

Thus the presidential elections around the world, but especially that of Donald Trump in the United States seemed to reveal the power of Facebook, accused by some of having even influenced the presidential election. The event raised questions about the role of the platform in the dissemination of information.

Marc Zuckerberg, CEO of the company, first tried to refute the role of Facebook, but admitted that the network played an important role in public discourse and began to set up different means of control.

How to fight against this phenomenon?

The first resolution of Facebook was, last December, the establishment of a “fact-checking device”. Activated first in Germany and the United States, it was launched earlier this month in France. The operation is simple: several independent media and project partners (9 in France) are responsible for checking the authenticity of articles shared on Facebook. When two of them conclude that an article is doubtful, it is then labeled as such by Facebook, in view of all its users. The social network also promises to “reduce” their visibility and not monetize them by associating advertising.

The network also allows users to “report” content that appeared on their news feed on the grounds that “this is false information”. Indeed, anxious not to appear as a “media” or “publisher”, but rather as a neutral platform of external contents, the social network has taken care not to play an active role in sorting between true and false informations. Marc Zuckerberg insists, moreover, by saying “we can not become ourselves the arbiters of the truth”.

Despite this, Facebook employees will check user alerts, they will not be able to comment on the veracity of the information reported, their mission will be only to verify if the source site seems legitimate, with the help of partner organizations specialized in the verification of information (Snopes, Factcheck.org, Associated Press, Politifact). If the information proves to be wrong, Facebook will post a warning to users who want to share the same link: “Before sharing this story, you might want to know that independent fact-checkers challenging its accuracy.5049971_3_43bd_l-avertissement-que-montrera-facebook-a-ses_5d95b3360a66cabefed935275138ebb3


To continue its war against “fake news”, Facebook also announced that it would adjust the algorithm of its news feed, thus making it less oriented.

Akhéane Vaucelles



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