Facebook admits to promoting fake news about the Las Vegas shooting

Thursday, 05 Oct, 2017

Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a Las Vegas music festival, killing at least 50 and injuring more than 200.

Google and other tech giants like Facebook have prided themselves on their commitment to eradicating "fake news". And, in what's become a problematic trend, some of the articles being highlighted and distributed to millions of people were from unreliable sources. The article claimed that the Las Vegas shooter was a Democrat associated with the "Anti-Trump army".

Unfortunately, it seemed like Facebook was giving those same sites credibility.

When 4chan doxed Marilou, they found his account and saw that he likes tons of anti-Trump pages. United States lawmakers are also investigating the role their platforms inadvertently played in Russia's alleged campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

After initiating a "Safety Check" for Las Vegas, which provides information as a situation unfolds, Facebook populated the page's top stories with information from what appeared to be little-known sites, according to screenshots. Other right-wing sites had latched onto this narrative with little to no confirmation, and ironically, the fake news went viral thanks to those right-wing sites.

But Sterling says part of the issue with having these companies determine what's news is that they're run by engineers.

The automation of editorial judgment, combined with tech companies' reluctance to appear partisan, has created a lopsided battle between those who want to spread misinformation and those tasked with policing it. Posting a malicious rumor on Facebook, or writing a false news story that is indexed by Google, is a almost instantaneous process; removing such posts often requires human intervention.

"However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", Facebook said. In a statement, Facebook said it was working on a way to fix the issue that caused the fake news to appear.

The Gateway Pundit post was eventually deleted.

"Google saying "when the fresh 4chan story broke" makes me wonder if Google even.knows what 4chan is?" Silicon Valley, we have a problem. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results.

"It would have had to appear in any search results and we will proceed with further improvements to prevent this from happening again in the future", added the group which has built its success on its search engine.

"Google and Facebook are much bigger than any media company now, but they insist that they are not publishers, that they are merely platforms, and as platforms, they don't need to take responsibility for their content", Prof Tim Luckhurst, head of Kent University's Centre for Journalism told the BBC.