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Facebook Deals With Misinformation As U.S. Prepares For Its Midterm Election

The stepped-up efforts to give users more clarity about the rules and the steps to challenge decisions are signs Facebook is moving in the right direction

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Donald Trump, U.S.
President Donald Trump speaks at a fundraiser in Fargo, N.D.. VOA

As U.S. voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday, the election will also be a referendum on Facebook.

In recent months, the social networking giant has beefed up scrutiny of what is posted on its site, looking for fake accounts, misinformation and hate speech, while encouraging people to go on Facebook to express their views.

“A lot of the work of content moderation for us begins with our company mission, which is to build community and bring the world closer together,” Peter Stern, who works on product policy stakeholder engagement at Facebook, said at a recent event at St. John’s University in New York City.

Facebook wants people to feel safe when they visit the site, Stern said. To that end, it is on track to hire 20,000 people to tackle safety and security on the platform.

As part of its stepped-up effort, Facebook works with third-party fact-checkers and takes down misinformation that contributes to violence, according to a blog post by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO.

But most popular content, often dubbed “viral,” is frequently the most extreme. Facebook devalues posts it deems are incorrect, reducing their viralness, or future views, by 80 percent, Zuckerberg said.

Disinformation campaigns

Recently Facebook removed accounts followed by more than 1 million people that it said were linked to Iran but pretended to look like they were created by people in the U.S. Some were about the upcoming midterm elections.

facebook, U.S.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

The firm also removed hundreds of American accounts that it said were spamming political misinformation.

Still, Facebook is criticized for what at times appears to be flaws in its processes.

Vice News recently posed as all 100 U.S. senators and bought fake political ads on the site. After approving them all, Facebook said it made a mistake.

Politicians in Britain and Canada have asked Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s role on spreading disinformation.

“I think they are really struggling and that’s not surprising, because it’s a very hard problem,” said Daphne Keller, who used to be on Google’s legal team and is now with Stanford University.

 

facebook, U.S.
A protester wearing a mask with the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in between men wearing angry face emoji masks, is seen during a demonstration against Facebook outside Portcullis in London. VOA

 

“If you think about it, they get millions, billions of new posts a day, most of them some factual claim or sentiment that nobody has ever posted before, so to go through these and figure out which are misinformation, which are false, which are intending to affect an electoral outcome, that is a huge challenge,” Keller said. “There isn’t a human team that can do that in the world, there isn’t a machine that can do that in the world.”

Transparency

While it has been purging its site of accounts that violate its policies, the company has also revealed more about how decisions are made in removing posts. In a 27-page document, Facebook described in detail what content it removes and why, and updated its appeals process.

Stern, of Facebook, supports the company’s efforts at transparency.

Donald Trump, U.S.
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally endorsing the Republican ticket in Erie, Pennsylvania, VOA

“Having a system that people view as legitimate and basically fair even when they don’t agree with any individual decision that we’ve made is extremely important,” he said.

Also Read: Obama On Why Its Important To Vote In This Midterm Eledtions

The stepped-up efforts to give users more clarity about the rules and the steps to challenge decisions are signs Facebook is moving in the right direction, Stanford’s Keller said.

“We need to understand that it is built into the system that there will be a fair amount of failure and there needs to be appeals process and transparency to address that,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s Why Facebook can Still be Your Best Friend

And students with low self-efficacy have more to gain from prioritising Facebook use over traditional media when making new college friends

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FILE - The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, March 29, 2018. VOA

Transitioning from high school to college can be stressful for some students and to maintain connections with pre-college friends and form new relationships, Facebook can still be your best friend.

A new research led by Indian-origin researcher Surinder Kahai reveals that Facebook can help college students maintain relationships with high-school friends and assist them in creating new friendships.

The study, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, shows that when it comes to making new friends, those with higher confidence in their social skills have less to gain from relying on Facebook, while people with lower confidence in their social skills have more to gain from the social media platform.

“Transitioning from high school to college can be stressful for many students. To help them adjust to life in college, it is critical for them to maintain connections with pre-college friends and to form new relationships,” said Kahai, Associate Professor at Binghamton University in the US.

For the study, the researchers focused on first semester college students by asking undergraduate college students, mostly sophomores, about their experiences with different channels used to maintain and grow relationships.

facebook, personal data
FILE – A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

Accounting for Facebook’s effect on relationships versus the impact of more traditional media face-to-face interaction, phone calls, etc., researchers also incorporated how each student’s social self-efficacy like confidence in their social skills affected the use of both Facebook and traditional media to build and maintain relationships.

In terms of how “best” to use Facebook to maintain and build new relationships, some of the findings include; Facebook can compensate for the lower use of traditional media to maintain relationships with close friends from high school.

According to researchers, Facebook works best when supplementing traditional media when it comes to making new college friends, students with high self-efficacy have more to gain from prioritising traditional media over Facebook when making new college friends.

Also Read: Apple Refreshes its Operating Systems for iPhones, Watches

And students with low self-efficacy have more to gain from prioritising Facebook use over traditional media when making new college friends.

“New college students often stress about trying to maintain their high school friendships while struggling to develop new ones. These findings can help counselors advise students on how to balance the use of social media and traditional media to enhance their new and older friendships,” Kahai said. (IANS)