Facebook: We won't remove fake news

Revelation follows Ofcom's threat to regulate social media platforms in a bid to curb misinformation

Facebook doesn't plan to remove fake news from its platform, believing false information doesn't violate its terms and conditions, despite the threat of regulation looming for social media firms that don't improve their accountability.

In a media presentation at its Manhattan offices last week, the social network said that removing fabricated posts would be "contrary to the basic principles of free speech" as publishers had very different points of view, instead saying it would demote posts in the news feed that it deems to be fake.

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CNN reporter Oliver Darcy asked the company how it could claim to be tackling the spread of fake news while it allowed infamous theory conspiracy website InfoWars to remain on the platform.

InfoWars produces online talk shows and boasts 900,000 followers on Facebook, but the site has been known to publish false information and conspiracy theories, claiming that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked by the US government.

In response to CNN, the head of Facebook's news feed, John Hegeman, said: "We created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. Just for being false that doesn't violate the community standards."

"We see pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis but others call fake news," Facebook said in a follow-up tweet. "We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech."

In a second tweet, Facebook said it would "demote" individual posts that are reported as being fake news, and any pages or domains that repeatedly share it.

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In February the social network trialled a 'downvote' feature to combat offensive and misleading content, but regulators are cracking down on social media around the spread of misinformation.

Writing in The Times on Friday, Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said that social media platforms need to be "more accountable" in how they police content.

"The argument for independent regulatory oversight of large online players has never been stronger," she said.

"In practice, this would place much greater scrutiny on how effectively the online platforms respond to harmful content to protect consumers, with powers for a regulator to enforce standards and act if these are not met."

White also highlighted Ofcom research that suggested users have little trust in social media content, with only 39% considering it to be a trustworthy news source, compared to 63% for newspapers and 70% for TV.

Picture: Shutterstock

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