15 November 2016

BuzzFeed News: “Renegade Facebook Employees form Task Force to battle Fake News”

It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season, said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division. He, like the four other Facebook employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story, would only speak on condition of anonymity. All five employees said they had been warned by their superiors against speaking to press, and feared they would lose their jobs if named.

The employees declined to provide many details on the task force. One employee said “more than dozens” of employees were involved, and that they had met twice in the last six days. At the moment, they are meeting in secret, to allow members of the group to speak freely and without fear of condemnation from senior management. The group plans to formalize its meetings and eventually make a list of recommendations to Facebook’s senior management. Another Facebook employee said while the task force remained small, “hundreds” of Facebook employees had expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s stance on fake news in private online chats, and wanted to support efforts to challenge that position.

Sheera Frenkel

I wonder how these groups are coordinating inside Facebook while hiding from other employees and their managers. Maybe with third party apps (iMessage?) on their phones? I imagine they wouldn’t want to use Facebook Messenger or other internal communication apps that could in theory be accessed by IT.

Related, both Google and Facebook announced changes to their ad policies to bar sites spreading fake news from displaying ads from Google or Facebook respectively. This should limit the appeal of deceptive content by cutting off an important source of revenue for these domains. It’s a good first step, but many of these sites are probably funded by wealthy ‘benefactors’ from either side of the political spectrum (not to mention other ad networks with less strict policies), so I think more decisive measures are in order.

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