News Analysis by Trina Sultan and Sarah Banno
Facebook has once again found evidence that its platform has been exploited by foreign groups to spread misinformation. The VOX article, “Facebook banned more fake Russian and Iranian accounts ” by Peter Kafka, describes how three groups connected to Iran and another account tied to Russia created networks on Facebook with the explicit purpose to spread false information. Facebook says it has banned these accounts for violating its rules regarding “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” adding that the attackers didn’t get very far before they were detected and shut down.
It’s against this backdrop that Facebook has finally decided to label fake news and information “False Information” rather than “Disputed Information.” It says the new policy will help “protect the 2020 U.S. elections,” by giving users more information regarding the posts and ads they see on the platform–with one big exception–it will still allow lies in political ads. For everything but political ads, Facebook and Instagram users will now all see a pop-up warning if they try to share fake information. Although there will be no labels for political ads, there will be additional information about who owns individual pages and who is running the ads through a political ad tracker.
This is a step in the right direction. Many people who use Facebook just don’t have the tools, time, or desire to fact-check news stories on their own. The “False Information” pop-up will help consumers know if the posts and stories they’re viewing are actually credible and given them the option to see why those stories received that label. In addition, being able to see more clearly who owns a particular page will remind consumers to consider the source of the articles and advertisements they come across, making it harder for intentional and potentially harmful misinformation to be shared and go viral.
Takeaway: Facebook still has a long way to go in terms of its goal and “coordinated effort to rid the site of misinformation.” Though the labels and ad tracker will help, political candidates and their parties are still allowed to lie and spread false information because paid political ads will not be subject to the same fact-checking regulations as all other posts, even though the goal of these new policies is to “protect the U.S. 2020 elections.” So stating that Facebook is making a sincere effort to rid its site of misinformation is in itself, “False Information.”