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Facebook mulls ways to fight fake news

| Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

A week after trying to reassure the public that it was “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined several ways the company might try to stop the spread of fake news on the platform.

“We've been working on this problem for a long time, and we take this responsibility seriously. We've made significant progress, but there is more work to be done,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Friday night post on his Facebook page. He named seven approaches the company is considering to address the issue, including warning labels on false stories, easier user reporting methods and the integration of third-party verification.

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” he cautioned, repeating the company's longstanding aversion to becoming the “arbiters of truth” — instead preferring to rely on third parties and users to make those distinctions.

“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content,” he said.

While none of the listed ideas are particularly specific, Zuckerberg's post does provide more details on the company's thinking about the problem of fake news.

Facebook's concern with fake news predates the 2016 elections. Hoaxes have long plagued the site's algorithms, which incentivize the creation of content that its users would like to share, true or not.

But fake news — and specifically Facebook's role in spreading it — became a story of wide interest just after the elections, when critics accused the platform of influencing voters by allowing political hoaxes to regularly go viral — particularly those favorable to President-elect Donald Trump. Zuckerberg has strongly denied that this was true, saying last week that the idea that Facebook influenced the elections in this way is “pretty crazy,” and that fake news “surely had no impact” on the outcome.

Zuckerberg did not contradict this denial Friday, but his post reflects Facebook's growing acknowledgment that it's going to have to do a lot more about the plague of hoaxes and fake stories on the platform.

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