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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company’s fight against so-called fake news will “focus on fighting spam, not flagging opinions.”
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it had partnered with a handful of outside fact-checkers, including Snopes and PolitiFact, to weed out fake news stories and hoaxes from its News Feed. The decision was immediately met with alarm and skepticism from conservatives who worried that fact-checking wouldn’t be applied equally to both sides of the political spectrum.
“This is a disaster for news coverage,” wrote Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative who is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire. “It’s an attempt to restore gatekeepers who have a bias as the ultimate arbiters of truth.”
When a Facebook user asked Zuckerberg how the social network would guarantee that its fact-checkers weren’t politically motivated, he responded that the company would “proceed carefully” and didn’t want to limit “people’s freedom of expression.”
“I understand how sensitive this is and I have instructed our team to proceed carefully and focus on fighting spam, not flagging opinions,” Zuckerberg said. “For example, we’re focused on obvious hoaxes with headlines like ‘Michael Phelps just died of a heart attack’ designed to get people to click on the stories and see ads.”
“Our goal is to reduce these hoaxes just like we fight other scams on our platform, but I want us to be especially careful about never being arbiters of truth ourselves – which is why we’re working with third-party fact-checkers,” he continued. “We’ll keep looking for unbiased third parties to add to our list of reviewers.”
Of the 42 news organizations that have committed to Poynter’s fact-checking code of ethics, Facebook is starting out with the following four: Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact. The Associated Press will also be a fact-checking partner.
“This is an early test, and I’m going to keep a close eye on it to make sure we’re fighting actual spam and hoaxes, and not limiting people’s freedom of expression,” Zuckerberg said.