Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that the social media site can be used as a propaganda tool or for the propagation of fake news. Now, the social media giant has released a report to outline what it’s doing about this potential for misuse and abuse.
The whitepaper, penned by Jen Weedon of FireEye, William Nuland of Dell SecureWorks, and Alex Stamos of Facebook, revealed that Facebook is not turning a blind eye while false information, violent images, and sex videos are being shared by its users.
Among the ideas recommended were:
- Collaboration with stakeholders to come up with a united agenda
- Choke the financial sources, if the purpose is for economic gain
- Creating new products to counter fake news
- Educate users on how to spot which information is false or true
The paper also identified the three main purposes of creating false content: first is to target and collect data in the ultimate aim of “controlling public discourse;” second is to manipulate public discourse by amplifying an issue through the use of fake accounts; and third is to produce fake content and seed them to journalists and news agencies.
The paper cited the recent US elections, where Donald Trump emerged as a winner, as a good example of the three ways to control public discourse using Facebook. The study found several instances where private information was phished, fake accounts were created, and legitimate accounts were used to share news content.
“From there, organic proliferation of the messaging and data through authentic peer groups and networks was inevitable,” the report added.
But the paper said much more is needed to be done to stop people from gaming the algorithm to advance their own agenda, particularly during electoral exercises. Governments, for example, also have to strengthen cyber-security efforts to protect candidates from external attacks.
As to stemming the tide of fake news, it said, “Journalists and news professionals are essential for the health of democracies. We are working through the Facebook Journalism Project15 to help news organizations stay vigilant about their security.”
About a week ago, just a couple of days when a murder was posted live on Facebook, Zuckerberg acknowledged the social media giant’s role in the proliferation of the violent video while he addressed the audience during the F8 event.
“We have a lot of work [to do] and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening," he said.
While the act of Steve Stephens, who gunned down Robert Godwin Sr., was grisly enough, the Facebook Live video stayed on air for about two hours. The shooter later killed himself during a police manhunt.
The Verge noted that the whole paper did not lay down a clear-cut strategy on how to cut the legs out of those people who produce the fake news in the first place. It also did not call out Facebook and its accountability when propaganda or a violent video is being shared by millions.
While Facebook should not be scored for the creation of fake news, once the propaganda piece finds its way into the social media network, fail-safe measures should be in place to prevent those from being shared, the article said.
Meanwhile, Gizmodo blasted Facebook for trying to sanitize its complicity by releasing a whitepaper that is essentially 13 pages of hollow words that amount to nothing. The article said that Zuckerberg would be better off admitting that it doesn’t know how to resolve the proliferation of fake news than make false promises to its users.