According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company's decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people's feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It's unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.
"They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, "there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics," and that "a lot of product decisions got caught up in that."
"The strength of our community depends on authentic communication."
"The news would be true if you people would just play nice."
The feedback we've gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most.
"Users tell us that things that they think are true make them happy."
"We rely heavily on the community to report content."
"We in the petrochemical industry rely heavily on the community to report toxic spills."
In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of "highly partisan, fact-light media," and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. "A bias towards truth isn't an impossible goal for News Feed," he wrote. "But it's now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit."
"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."
I don't know how Facebook thinks -- who could? But it might be something like this: The real engagement drivers are fun videos, viral things about human cultural identities, the world's largest banana splits, racist things, boobs, and things about aliens. Everyone is upset today that Macedonian teenagers searching for a quick buck wrote that Hillary Clinton had an FBI employee murdered. But what about tomorrow? Let's say you blocked all the publishers from Macedonia. Are you also going to take away the articles that say that healing crystals can lower blood pressure? What about if CBS Sunday Morning does a piece about angels? [...]
For Mark Zuckerberg to say that less than 1% of news on Facebook is a hoax is a little like saying that less than 1% of your brain is malignant cancer. It's not the 1% but the malignancy. It sounds like things are 99% okay, but it's actually a very bad diagnosis.
This is your irregularly-scheduled reminder:
If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.
You can do it. I believe in you.