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Facebook's Zuckerberg denies "false news," then denies denial

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CoNet Administrator
chiefofficersnet

Mark Zuckerberg has still not quite got a handle on what it means to run a public company. He announces policy on the hoof and before even Facebook's Press Office and even the markets are informed. His latest whoopsie relates to suggestions that Facebook carried sufficient "fake news" to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Last night, via his personal Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/zuck/...), Zuckerberg posted a long message in which he made claims that will surprise many ordinary users - then he kinda backtracked.

He started badly, "I want to share..." Oh, for heaven's sake. Stop sounding like a second rate social worker or someone who's spent most of his formative years listening to psychobabble.

"Our goal is to give everyone a voice.." Actually, that's not true: Facebook's policies are surprisingly restrictive, with users being subjected to material they find offensive but finding that Facebook considers it OK, but then finding that material they find normal is blocked by Facebook. FB has an agenda and its people and algorithms enforce it ruthlessly.

"We believe deeply in people." Actually, only to a degree. Facebook believes more in technology, especially algorithms. It really is time this egomaniac came clean and admitted that the only thing he believes in is himself, his vision and shed loads of money. Just because someone called what he (and many other does) "social media" doesn't mean it is a social service. He's an entrepreneur and for that he's to be applauded. But that's all he is.

"Assuming that people understand what is important in their lives and that they can express those views has driven not only our community, but democracy overall. " Well, perhaps aligning Facebook with democracy is a bit over the top and to call it "a community" is marketing nonsense, but the general thrust of the comment is correct.

He then says that "many people" are "asking whether fake news contributed to the result" of the 2016 Presidential Election. His response is "Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes."

Now that's something we would like to see proved. This is why he cannot make such statements to the markets. And it's not likely to be true. Every day, millions of users see so-called "memes" - photographs of a person with a statement attributed to them. There are websites which are dedicated to allowing users to use a photo of someone famous, add whatever words they like, save it and post it to anywhere they like, including Facebook.

Don't believe us? Well...

We made this in about 20 seconds at https://imgflip.com/memegenera... . It's also very simple to collect an image from the internet, use a graphics program to overlay text and to spread it as if Gandhi (for example) said that a peaceful world is an anathema to the development of man. (He didn't).

Zuckerberg goes on " The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other." We e e e e ell, perhaps not. It all depends on your definition of false news. Disinformation and misinformation and downright lies spread through robo-memberships using paid-for likes and "friends" who then re-share might not be considered "news" by the BBC (although, given its dependence on reciting Twitter feeds that's not entirely impossible) but in the broader sense of information that people read and rely on, it certainly is.

So. Zuckerberg is adopting a narrow definition of "news" while his own website says that everything that it puts onto a member's page is its "news feed." The stuff that changes minds or reinforces opinions are, for ordinary users, "news."

Zuckerberg is the master of saying one thing and meaning another. Those "memes" are ultra popular and they often attribute entirely false statements to the people who appear in them. In one case, in the UK, a meme containing entirely false information relating to the Conservative Party and the NHS was "shared" millions of times over a period of months. One of our staff reported it, pointing out that it was untrue. Facebook's response? It" does not violate Facebook's community standards." Zuckerberg's comments, then, not only do not ring true but are demonstrably false.

Oh, wait, that'd be false news on Facebook, then, wouldn't it?

"That said, we don't want any hoaxes on Facebook," he said. Well, as demonstrated above that's not true.

Zuckerberg's full statement is as follows. You are invited to read it and apply common sense to it.

He's saying it's not a problem, then saying he's going to do something about it. The only thing that you need to know is that Facebook's entire business model is to be vague about what it says it will do, then interpret it in a way that users would not have expected and to ignore objections. There is no reason to suspect that there is anything less duplicitous or devious in this statement.

-------- Sunday 13 November 2016 ----

I want to share some thoughts on Facebook and the election.

Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people. Assuming that people understand what is important in their lives and that they can express those views has driven not only our community, but democracy overall. Sometimes when people use their voice though, they say things that seem wrong and they support people you disagree with.

After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

That said, we don't want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.

This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the "truth" is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

As we continue our research, we are committed to always updating you on how News Feed evolves. We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we'd like in order to confirm changes we make won't introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system. If you're interested in following our updates, I encourage you to follow our News Feed FYI here: http://bit.ly/2frNWo2.

Overall, I am proud of our role giving people a voice in this election. We helped more than 2 million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise. We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.

This has been a historic election and it has been very painful for many people. Still, I think it's important to try to understand the perspective of people on the other side. In my experience, people are good, and even if you may not feel that way today, believing in people leads to better results over the long term.

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Zuckerberg meme: https://cdn.meme.am/cache/inst...

 


 

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