Facebook Quietly Begins Fact-Checking Political Photos and Videos

PJ MEDIA BY PAULA BOLYARDMARCH 29, 2018

Facebook announced today that the company began fact-checking political photos and videos on Wednesday in an attempt to root out fake news. The company announced in a blog post that the changes come as a result of Facebook’s plan to review “ongoing election efforts.”

“By now, everyone knows the story: during the 2016 US election, foreign actors tried to undermine the integrity of the electoral process,” Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, wrote. “Their attack included taking advantage of open online platforms — such as Facebook — to divide Americans, and to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt.” Rosen said although the clock cannot be turned back, “we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack [on] our democracy does not happen again.” He said Facebook is taking its role in the effort “very, very seriously.”

He outlined  several steps Facebook is taking to combat the problem:

  • First, combating foreign interference,
  • Second, removing fake accounts,
  • Third, increasing ads transparency, and
  • Fourth, reducing the spread of false news.

Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer, added to Rosen’s remarks by attempting to define fake news. He listed as the most common issues:

  1. Fake identities– this is when an actor conceals their identity or takes on the identity of another group or individual;
  2. Fake audiences– so this is using tricks to artificially expand the audience or the perception of support for a particular message;
  3. False facts – the assertion of false information; and
  4. False narratives– which are intentionally divisive headlines and language that exploit disagreements and sow conflict. This is the most difficult area for us, as different news outlets and consumers can have completely different on what an appropriate narrative is even if they agree on the facts.

Stamos singled out “organized, professional groups” whose motivation is money. “These cover the spectrum from private but ideologically motivated groups to full-time employees of state intelligence services,” he said. “Their targets might be foreign or domestic, and while much of the public discussion has been about countries trying to influence the debate abroad, we also must be on guard for domestic manipulation using some of the same techniques.”

Facebook product manager Samidh Chakrabarti said the company has gotten better at finding and deleting fake accounts. “We’re now at the point that we block millions of fake accounts each day at the point of creation before they can do any harm,” he said. “We’ve been able to do this thanks to advances in machine learning, which have allowed us to find suspicious behaviors — without assessing the content itself.”

Another produce manager, Tessa Lyons, revealed more details on how Facebook’s partnership with third-party fact-checkers will work:

  • We use signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to predict potentially false stories for fact-checkers to review.
  • When fact-checkers rate a story as false, we significantly reduce its distribution in News Feed — dropping future views on average by more than 80%.
  • We notify people who’ve shared the story in the past and warn people who try to share it going forward.
  • For those who still come across the story in their News Feed, we show more information from fact-checkers in a Related Articles unit.
  • We use the information from fact-checkers to train our machine learning model, so that we can catch more potentially false news stories and do so faster.

The company had previously announced partnerships with several left-leaning fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and PolitiFact.

Tucked in near the end of the lengthy blog post, almost as an afterthought, Lyons revealed that on Wednesday, Facebook began “fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links.” She said, “We’re ramping up our fact-checking efforts to fight false news around elections. We’re scaling in the US and internationally, expanding beyond links to photos and videos, and increasing transparency.”

The company has been on the defensive in recent days after revelations that political data firm Cambridge Analytica sold information obtained via Facebook quizzes to third-party vendors, violating the privacy of millions of Facebook users. Facebook claims that the practice was a violation of the company’s terms of service, but didn’t bother to verify that the company had deleted the information that was collected as required as the terms of service stipulated. Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are calling for more regulation of Facebook and other social media platforms in the wake of the scandal.


As reported in January when the first big wave of Shadow Banning began:

Facebook Says Big Changes Are Coming to Your News Feed

NBC NEWS by ALYSSA NEWCOMB   January 12, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — When Facebook’s two billion users scroll through their News Feeds in the coming weeks, they can expect to see more content from their friends and family, and less from businesses, brands and media, the company announced Thursday.

aerial-fire-fighting-facebook-likes-thumbs-up.jpgThe ultimate goal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post, is to make people feel more positive about the time they spend on social media. The content Facebook shows “should encourage meaningful interactions between people,”he said.

Related: Facebook CEO Zuckerberg’s 2018 resolution: Fix it!

“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

Former Facebook executive: It’s ‘destroying how society works’ 3:09

The announcement comes one week after Zuckerberg, who famously declares a News Year’s resolution on Facebook each year, announced his goal this year will be to “fix” Facebook. This includes dealing with abuse on the platform, such as Russian meddling in elections and ensuring users feel like logging onto Facebook is “time well spent.”

! Facebook Jumping the Shark Fonzie Snopes Zuckerberg

Facebook has denied it is a media company, but in recent years, brands, media companies and other content creators have turned to Facebook for its unparalleled reach and engagement. It’s a point Zuckerberg acknowledged in his post, writing that “video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years.”

“Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook uses AI

The News Feed shake-up will also usher in a shift in thinking for Facebook’s product teams. They were previously given the mandate to help users find relevant content. Now, Zuckerberg said, they’ll be tasked with helping deliver more meaningful social interactions for Facebook users.

! 20171221_fb

Facebook’s algorithm — think of that as a complex digital recipe for deciding what shows in each person’s News Feed — will now prioritize posts from friends and family that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”

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What’s unclear is whether the changes could perpetuate an echo chamber effect, assuming users are more likely to interact with posts that reinforce their beliefs.

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The changes are also a blow to brands and media companies that publish on Facebook. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed, said these public pages can expect to see their reach, video watch times and referral traffic decrease.

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“Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect,” he wrote in a blog post.

With people no longer having as much content to passively consume in their News Feeds, Zuckerberg said he expects some measures of user engagement will decrease. That’s news shareholders may not want to hear, but Zuckerberg said he believes the changes will be mutually beneficial in the long run for Facebook’s two billion users and its bottom line.

“By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent,” he said.

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Facebook shares fall more than 4% after Mark Zuckerberg announces major changes that will see less advertising in users’ News Feeds

  • Shares of Facebook fell more than 4 percent Friday after it announced changes
  • Mark Zuckerberg said News Feed will boost content from friends and family
  • Changes will mean a family video clip will be prioritized over company posts
  • It may mean that the amount of time people spend on Facebook will decrease 
  • Zuckerberg said it would be better for users and for the business in the long term
  • But the market appears to disagree with the CEO’s assessment 

Shares of Facebook Inc fell more than 4 per cent on Friday after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to the platform’s centerpiece News Feed that he said would hit user engagement in the near term.

Zuckerberg said on Thursday the company would change the filter for the News Feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands.

Pivotal Research Group said its analysis of Nielsen’s digital consumption rates showed that usage was already falling prior to Zuckerberg’s announcement, although from very high levels.

A warning by Zuckerberg that people could spend less time on Facebook in the short term as a result of the changes sent the company’s stock $8.40 lower to $179.37.

The graph above shows the sharp decline of the price of Facebook stock on Friday

Shares of Facebook Inc fell more than 4 per cent on Friday after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to the platform’s centerpiece News Feed that he said would hit user engagement in the near term

‘We can speculate that the concerns reflected in Zuckerberg’s post may very well have been driving these declines,’ Pivotal’s Brian Wieser wrote in a note.

The company has been criticized for algorithms that may have prioritized misleading news and misinformation in people’s feeds, influencing the 2016 American presidential election as well as political discourse in many countries.

While Facebook’s advertising would be unaffected by the changes, the shift was likely to mean that the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement would go down in the short term, Facebook said.

It may also have an impact on major suppliers of news and other content.

John Ridding, the chief executive of the Financial Times, warned on Friday that the domination of online advertising revenue by search and social media platforms was putting pressure on media firms.

‘The FT welcomes moves to recognize and support trusted and reliable news and analysis. But a sustainable solution to the challenges of the new information ecosystem requires further measures,’ he said.

‘In particular, a viable subscription model on platforms that enables publishers to build a direct relationship with readers and to manage the terms of access to their content.’

Posts from businesses, brands and media will be made less prominent in an effort to help users have ‘more meaningful social interactions.’

Zuckerberg announced the changes in a sweeping Facebook post on Thursday, saying it was the first in a series of changes in the design of the world’s largest social network.

Zuckerberg said on Thursday that Facebook has started changing the way it filters posts and videos on its centerpiece News Feed to prioritize content from friends and family

Zuckerberg said on Thursday that Facebook has started changing the way it filters posts and videos on its centerpiece News Feed to prioritize content from friends and family

Facebook has already started changing the way it filters posts and videos on its centerpiece News Feed to prioritize content from friends and family of the user.

For example, a family video clip posted by a spouse will be deemed more worthy of attention than a snippet from a star or favorite restaurant.

But experts claim this is just another money-making scheme for the site, pushing companies to buy more adverts to get user attention.

‘As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,’ Zuckerberg said in a post at his Facebook page.

‘And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.’

The company has for years prioritized material that its complex computer algorithms think people will engage with through comments, ‘likes’ or other ways of showing interest.

Zuckerberg said that would no longer be the goal.

‘I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,’ Zuckerberg said.

The shift was likely to mean that the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement would go down in the short term.

However, Zuckerberg said it would be better for users and for the business over the long term.

Facebook and its social media competitors have been inundated by criticism that their products reinforce users’ views on social and political issues and lead to addictive viewing habits, raising questions about possible regulation and the businesses’ long-term viability.

HOW FACEBOOK WILL PRIORITIZE FRIENDS IN YOUR NEWS FEED

Up until now, Facebook has prioritized material that its algorithms think people will engage with through comments, ‘likes’ or other ways of showing interest.

But 33-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg says he wants to change the focus to help users have ‘more meaningful social interactions.’

The move follows his resolution in 2018 to ‘fix’ the site.

It is also in response to criticism that Facebook and its social media competitors reinforce users’ views on social and political issues.

Critics also say sites like Facebook lead to addictive viewing habits.

Zuckerberg cited research that suggests reading ‘passively’ on social media was damaging for people’s mental health, while interacting proactively with friends was positive.

According to Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s New Feed boss, in practice the change mean

  • Posts from friends and family will get more prominence that video, news, and other content from formal Facebook pages, such as companies and celebrities
  • The number of comments on a post will count more than the number of Likes
  • Posts where people have spend the time to write lengthy comments will be prioritized over those with only short comments
  • While, news and video will still appear in News Feed, the number of friends sharing it will matter more than its overall popularity

The shift could mean that the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement would go down in the short term.

However, Zuckerberg said it would be better for users and for the business over the long term.

The company's Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the changes in a sweeping Facebook post

The company’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the changes in a sweeping Facebook post

The company has for years prioritized material that its complex computer algorithms think people will engage with through comments, 'likes' or other ways of showing interest 

The company has for years prioritized material that its complex computer algorithms think people will engage with through comments, ‘likes’ or other ways of showing interest

WHAT THE EXPERTS THINK OF FACEBOOK’S CHANGES TO MAKE YOUR NEWSFEED MORE SOCIAL

Facebook is making major changes to its News Feed so that users can see more content that family and friends share instead of a high amount of content from pages or celebrities.

Here are what the experts think:

It’s about Facebook making more money from ads 

‘It’s laughable that they’re pretending this is about their users’ ‘well-being’. It’s not – it’s about them making more money from ads’, Lilach Bullock, a London-based content marketing and social media specialist told MailOnline.

‘It feels like every year, businesses, publishers, and other Pages need to open up their wallet if they want anyone to see their updates’, she said.

‘Now, users need to be ‘protected’ from seeing content that Facebook deems unworthy of them.’

She believes people can decide for themselves what they want to follow instead of having Facebook decide what protects their ‘well-being’.

Ms Bullock also warns the changes will affect small companies the most.

‘Big companies with big followings on Facebook might be affected, but they’ll have the funds to get results in other ways.

‘Small businesses, on the other hand, and social causes will massively struggle.’

People will not spend less time on Facebook 

Mark Zuckerberg said that as a result of the changes he believed people would spend less time on Facebook.

However, Tristan Harris, who spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist said it is unlikely Facebook will become any less addictive.

‘Their business depends on them monetizing people’s attention,’ he told Wired.

‘They’d have to fundamentally reexamine their business model to stop doing that.’

It lacks transparency. We don’t yet know what conversations will be prioritized

Other experts have agreed it will cause ‘significant change’ but Facebook has not been clear about what type of discussions it will prioritise.

It may be that controversial conversations are prioritized or group pages where people engage on specific topics, Laura Hazard Owen at Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab told BBC.

‘It’s going to affect publishers a lot, we’re going to be seeing a lot less news organically pop up in our news feeds’, Ms Owen said.

There should be a public debate on the issue 

Earlier this week investors said the habit-forming nature of gadgets and social media are one reason why companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook Inc added $630 billion (£463 billion) to their market value in 2017.

One expert believes the announcement is a ‘clear admission’ from the company that their site has an important effect on the health of society.

‘There should be public debate about the values they’re applying to that algorithm,’ said Gabriel Kahn from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  

The company has been criticized for algorithms that may have prioritized misleading news and misinformation in people’s feeds, influencing the 2016 American presidential election, as well as political discourse in many countries.

Last year, Facebook disclosed that Russian agents had used the network to spread inflammatory posts to polarize the American electorate.

Congress is expected to hold more hearings this month, questioning the role social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s YouTube play in spreading propaganda.

Zuckerberg said an overhaul of the company’s products, beginning with changes to the algorithms that control the News Feed, would help to address those concerns.

Similar changes will be made to other products in the coming months, he said.

‘We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,’ Zuckerberg said.

With more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook is the world’s largest social media network. It is also among the world’s largest corporations, reporting $36 billion in revenue, mostly from advertising, during the 12 months that ended on September 30.

A shift away from non-ad content produced by businesses is a potentially severe blow to news organizations, many of which use Facebook to drive readership, but Zuckerberg said many such posts have been unhealthy.

‘Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience,’ he wrote.

Mark Zuckerberg is fighting to save Facebook

If there’s one thing Mark Zuckerberg has consistently excelled at as Facebook’s CEO, it’s destroying his enemies.

When Google (GOOGL) launched Google Plus, a rival social network, Zuckerberg put Facebook(FB) in a state of “lockdown” and informed employees that “Carthage must be destroyed,” according to one tell-all book from a former employee.

After Snapchat (SNAP) began gaining traction several years ago, Zuckerberg tried to buy the company and, failing that, pushed out a long list of features and new apps to clone the disappearing messaging app.

Google Plus is no longer viewed as a threat to Facebook. Snapchat is struggling to grow its audience. Now, Zuckerberg is turning his focus to a new enemy: Facebook itself.

On Thursday, Facebook announced a major change to News Feed, its central feature, to prioritize posts from friends and family over posts from publishers and brands.

The goal, according to Zuckerberg and Facebook, is to boost the “well-being” of the billions of people who use the social network by encouraging users to have more conversations and connections with peers, rather than being bombarded by brands.

In short, Facebook wants to show the world that it can still be a positive force in peoples’ lives — or at least show that it’s really, truly trying to be.

Since the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook has come under fire for stories about fake newsRussian propagandafilter bubbles and social media addiction. Facebook has also been described as enabling ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and Facebook’s WhatsApp was cited as a cause of beatings in India after a fake news story went viral.

Suddenly, the most existential threat Zuckerberg faces isn’t some rival service. It’s his own.

Related: Facebook to show more content from friends, less from publishers and brands

The media is increasingly fixated on the dark, unintended consequences of Facebook and other social networks. Regulators are scrutinizing the company more than ever before. Former Facebook executives have spoken out to express regret about what they built. And so has Zuckerberg.

“For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post for Yom Kippur in September.

“Controlling the narrative at this juncture is critical, particularly when it comes to the press and regulators,” James Cakmak, an analyst with Monness, Crespi, Hardt, wrote in an investor note Friday morning about the News Feed change.

mark zuckerberg profile

Perhaps with that goal in mind, Zuckerberg has already gone on a listening tour across the country, revised the company’s mission statement and pledged to cut into Facebook’s profits to prevent abuse of the platform.

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said his personal goal for 2018 is to focus on “fixing” Facebook’s many problems. The short list he cited includes “abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”

The News Feed update is the first of those fixes, refocusing the company on the quality of time users spend on the platform, rather than the quantity.

Even if it ends up helping Facebook’s public image, there are other risks here for Zuckerberg. The News Feed change has already rattled publishers and investors who worry about it now being harder for businesses to reach customers on the platform. Facebook’s stock fell 4% in early trading Friday.

Then there are the societal concerns. If the last year has shown anything, it’s that seemingly banal product decisions can yield tremendous unforeseen consequences. By prioritizing content that sparks conversations with friends, Facebook could risk promoting more polarizing and opinionated posts that generate lots of comments, only adding to the filter bubble.

But inaction isn’t an option for Zuckerberg either. Not only is he trying to protect Facebook’s image, he’s also trying to protect his own.

In one interview published Thursday, Zuckerberg suggested a renewed interest in his legacy following the birth of his two children: “It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up that they feel like what their father built was good for the world.”

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! Stacking up to Zuckerberg Facebook

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