Facebook’s Fake News Problem Isn’t Russian Anymore—It’s Homegrown

The social network purged 800 pages that promoted misleading information, many of them homespun.

Facebook’s prolonged struggle to nullify the spread of misleading information on its platform took a bold step on Thursday, when the company scrubbed over 800 pages for promoting what it calls “inauthentic behavior.”

The social network’s reputation for fake news blew up during the 2016 presidential election, when it was overrun with political spam deployed in large part by Russian trolls and foreign profiteers. But the company’s newest efforts indicate that the Russian boogeyman has given way to something far thornier: fake news of a homegrown variety.

Facebook’s purge affected hundreds of political accounts, many of which amassed millions of followers through publishing partisan and sometimes overtly false content. Liberal and conservative pages alike were wiped, because, as they company says, they used clickbait to drive traffic and sell ads.

As the company wrote:

Facebook’s justification for removing problematic accounts—using duplicate profiles, artificially boosting metrics, inflaming political tension to fatten ad revenue—is a tactful one. It omits any mention of political censorship, skirting an allegation lobbed at Facebook by conservative groups in particular. Per Facebook’s rationale, it’s not the content that’s the issue, but the manner in which the content was posted.

That can’t mask an essential point, though: The 2018 midterms are just beyond the horizon, and the accounts swept up in the purge were often nakedly political.

Per the Washington Post:

Page administrators aren’t necessarily buying into Facebook’s logic. Chris Metcalf, publisher of the left-leaning Reasonable People Unite, compares the overnight disappearance of his account to an assault on free speech, rather than the company realizing its oft-reneged upon promise to stamp out fake news.

He told Wapo:

Even with less Russian state actors swarming Facebook’s newsfeed—it’s presumably dealt with that already—the company’s outsize influence in US political discourse continues at its usual and problematic pace.

Source: Facebook via Washington Post, The Verge

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