So, yes, in my view, Facebook has a direct responsibility to get rid of fake news, and it cannot simply rely on its audience or others to shoulder the burden. I’m happy to see tools made available to readers that help report such trash, and happy that Facebook is working with third-party fact checkers. But the ultimate responsibility is Facebook’s.
Nobody wants Facebook to tinker with legitimate news and opinion – again, except for hate speech. But getting rid of purely fake news from purely fake sources is an eminently achievable task, especially for a well-funded, tech-savvy, huge media company serving nearly 2 billion people.
I’ve written about my thoughts on this subject before, but I want to make them clearer by presenting you with an example.
Consider this clip from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.
Everything in this clip is not true. Everything said in that clip about Amsterdam and The Netherlands is literally – literally literally, not the fake kind of literally – made up. It’s all lies. Flat-out, bold-faced lies. This is clearly, unapologetically, fake news.
Yet, I doubt people like Mossberg and other people who claim it’s easy as pie for Facebook and Twitter to ‘block’ fake news would agree with me that Facebook should block this kind of news from their sites. Even though it’s nothing but flat-out lies, it would not be considered ‘fake news’.
And therein lies the problem with this whole outrage over ‘fake news’. No matter how many times people say it’s easy to separate real news from fake news, there’s going to be so many edge cases to trip up generic algorithms, and it’s simply not feasible to have human curation on sites as large in volume as Facebook and Twitter.
Is it really Facebook’s job to solve for people’s stupidity? In my view, it really isn’t. On top of that, I somehow doubt the tech media would be as worked up over this as they are now had Clinton won the election – and all of you know my political leanings well enough by now to understand the value of me saying this.