Facebook doesn’t want to become a media company, but it’s clear that the social media giant needs to step up its efforts to fight fake news content — Mark Zuckerberg himself said as much this week. However, according to a bombshell report in Gizmodo this week, the site may have intentionally allowed hoax stories to spread on the site for fear that removing them would anger conservatives.
According to the report, Facebook planned a News Feed update earlier this year that would have identified fake news stories, but the site shelved the feature because it would have removed content from a disproportionate number of right-wing sites. After the accusations earlier this year that Facebook’s former human Trending Topics editors were promoting liberal stories over conservative ones, the site was allegedly too afraid of offending the political right to release the update.
Facebook has already responded to the Gizmodo story with a statement denying the anonymously-sourced report.
“The article’s allegation is not true. We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party,” Facebook told Engadget in a statement. “We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes.”
Even though Facebook adamantly denies that it made a large impact on the presidential election, a recent Pew survey found that 44 percent of U.S. adults get their news from the site. That means that Facebook is a large and powerful news source, and needs to combat fake or hoax content accordingly.