In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections, I was invited to a television panel hosted by BBC around fake news. It was a wide-ranging deliberation, but my argument was that Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg) were shying away from what was their responsibility as platform owners. My contention was that fake news was like spam on email platforms, and it was the responsibility of Facebook to fix their platform. This was a technology problem, I argued because the network acts like anabolic steroids when spreading the fake news (and its various variants.) Given the sheer amount of data intelligence and resources at its disposal, to me, that was a dereliction of duty, a problem that has been a feature (not a bug) at Facebook.
Facebook, obviously denied its role, but to me preventing fake news was part of their platform job. And perhaps that is why I was surprised to read this comment by Zuckerberg in the New York Times, “Take things like false news. You know, a lot of it is really spam, if you think about it. It’s the same people who might have been sending you Viagra emails in the ’90s, now they’re trying to come up with sensational content and push it into Facebook and other apps in order to get you to click on it and see ads.” It took about 15 months but seems like Facebook has finally gotten the memo.
Now let’s see how quickly they can eradicate it.