No news: The engineering failure to block fake news and hate speech

Facebook, Google, and Twitter are under pressure by US and European law makers to spot and curb harmful content. Facebook decides to drop news content but this is not a solution...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Facebook's decision to use fewer news items in users' feeds is a direct result of its failure to filter out fake news and hate speech - in advance of European laws and increased pressure from US lawmakers.

Facebook's News Feed changes: A look at the likely consequences | ZDNet

The move will hurt many large news publishers who have relied on Facebook traffic due to earlier Facebook programs that courted news and magazine publishers to come onto the platform.

Representatives of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Google) were grilled by the Senate Commerce Committee in Washington, Wednesday. The Senators were critical of the poor progress made by the companies to quell Russian propaganda, fake news and harmful content.

Dave Lee at BBC News reports,

Google, which owns YouTube, has pledged to hire more human moderators to add an extra layer of protection for this process...

Twitter said it would implement several new measures to monitor discussions for any potential manipulation, as well as open up more formal communications lines with US politicians to escalate any problems.

Foremski's Take: Filtering out most of the news is an easy way for Facebook to tackle the problem of blocking most of the fake news. But it is not a solution. People will still be sharing information of various types and interacting about things that will be classed as harmful content. Filtering out news links is not a solution.

And without a solution Facebook, Google and Twitter and others, all face a future where they must still find a way to deal with fake information and hate speech and all types of other harmful content.

Tens of thousands of top engineers have collectively failed to come up with an engineering solution to this problem despite all their machine learning, AI and algorithmic prowess. Along with access to phenomenal amounts of computing power. It's a big failure. But there is a solution.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter are media companies - they publish pages of content with advertising - and they should look to traditional media companies and see how they handle this problem. They handle it superbly.

A tried and tested solution...

The traditional media industry has a solution that works incredibly well and is available to everyone - it's an open-source solution. It employs editors, journalists, and moderators to ensure third-parties don't use their publishing platforms as vehicles for hate speech, fake news and all the other problems facing the new media companies.

It's not a cheap solution - hiring people is expensive compared to running an algorithm.

But Facebook, Google, and Twitter are rich and their failure at building an engineering solution should not absolve them from using tried and true methods.

Traditional media companies bear this cost burden and so should their much larger and wealthier competitors.

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Please see:

Fake news problem: Facebook is a media company run by engineers | ZDNet

Europe tries to fight hate, harassment, and fake news without killing free speech - Columbia Journalism Review

Senate presses tech firms on anti-extremism efforts - BBC News

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