In a statement posted to his personal page over the weekend, Zuckerberg said fake news articles and hoaxes account for less than one per cent of the content on Facebook, noting that the company has taken steps to ensure users can report fake news to remove it from the platform. Facebook does not release statistics regarding what type of content appears on its site, therefore its unclear exactly how much content from these websites actually exists on the social network.
“Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” wrote Zuckerberg.
“Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.”
However, Zuckerberg warned that defining the “truth” is complicated, thanks to the wide-ranging political and personal views of its 1.18 billion daily active users.
“An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual,” he said.
“I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
Last week, several media outlets published opinion pieces accusing the social network of playing a role in the U.S. election by allowing fake news websites and blogs masquerading as legitimate sources to be featured next to articles from legitimate news sources.
Facebook’s news feed – the backbone on which the social media site operates – also came under fire because its designed to show users content they are more likely to agree and interact with, in order to make the content more relevant to the user. Some, including Forbes, New York Magazine and Mashable, argue that Facebook’s stance is dangerous because it isn’t held to editorial standards that force it to present opposing ideas and comments with equal weight.
Facebook has long refused to call itself a “media company,” insisting that it’s a simply tech company that aggregates content.
Zuckerberg maintained that stance when responding to user comments over the weekend, telling one user, “news and media are not the primary things people do on Facebook, so I find it odd when people insist we call ourselves a news or media company in order to acknowledge its importance.”
Despite his comments, Zuckerberg was quick to note that Facebook helped over two million Americans register to vote and connect with candidates directly to be “better informed.”
“Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook,” he said.