The proliferation of fake news articles on Facebook has been widely covered since the election. It is becoming increasingly clear that fake news is rampant on Facebook, even to the point of surpassing real news, and that Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that “more than 99% of what people see is authentic” is at best misleading, and at worst an outright lie. Gizmodo has even reported that Facebook has solutions to remove fake news, but has failed to implement them.
Technology leaders have an obligation to call Facebook out on this. It is unethical to profit off a platform that allows the widespread proliferation of lies. Facebook must take steps to curb the spread of fake news on its platform. Facebook should also release its internal numbers on how much fake news has been viewed and shared so that there is transparency around the magnitude of the problem.
Commendably, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has gone public stating that “there should just be no situation where fake news gets distributed”. Mark Zuckerberg should do the same. Whether Facebook considers itself a media company or not is irrelevant; 44% of Americans get news on Facebook, and it has an ethical obligation to make sure that that news is not fake.
This is a non-partisan issue. It is impossible to have a society based on rational discourse if we all believe different sets of fake facts. Yes, it would be nice if people fact-checked articles they read on Facebook themselves, but that isn’t a realistic solution when most people are willing to share articles solely based on headlines.
Lastly, it has been reported that there is a secret group of dissenting Facebook employees trying to stop fake news within the company. Those employees are heroes, and I am confident they are on the right side of history.