How Facebook Fought Fake News About Facebook

Facebook has built tools to track posts on Facebook and WhatsApp that talk about its executives, products, or moves Bloomberg reported on Monday. The company has been, for years, routinely using these tools to “snuff out” posts that it deems to offer untrue characterization of its services or people. From the report: Many companies monitor social media to learn what customers are saying about them. But Facebook’s position is unique. It owns the platform it’s watching, an advantage that may help Facebook track and reach users more effectively than other firms. And Facebook has been saddled with so many real problems recently that sometimes misinformation can stick. Stormchaser is just one of multiple tools Facebook has deployed to manage its reputation, which has taken a dramatic hit thanks to its role in spreading Russian misinformation during the U.S. election and numerous privacy scandals. The company employs hundreds of public relations officials and spent $13 million on government lobbying in 2018. Zuckerberg and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have become so intertwined with the company’s image that Facebook routinely collects public survey data to understand how the general public views them — data that shapes what the executives say and do publicly. Facebook’s response: “We didn’t use this internal tool to fight false news because that wasn’t what it was built for, and it wouldn’t have worked,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email. “The tool was built with simple technology that helped us detect posts about Facebook based on keywords, so we could consider whether to respond to product confusion on our own platform. Comparing the two is a false equivalence.” The New York Times’ tech columnist Kevin Roose, writes: You could write a dissertation about this quote, and the difference between what Facebook considers “product confusion” (wrong stuff about us, which must be removed immediately) and “false news” (wrong stuff about other people, which is protected free speech).

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