A former senior executive at Facebook warned on Tuesday that if the social network doesn’t do more to show readers accurate news and cut down on the “fake news” being distributed through the platform, government regulators could get involved.
Adam D’Angelo, a former chief technology officer at Facebook and now CEO of question-and-answer site Quora, made the comments at an invitation-only symposium in New York for members of The Information, a subscription-based news service co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin (Lessin’s husband Sam is also a former Facebook executive).
“You need to make readers of the platforms more aware of the true source of their news,” D’Angelo told attendees at the summit. “There’s not enough information about what source you’re going to. Government regulation at some point is a real option.”
According to a report at The Information, D’Angelo said that media companies have a huge incentive to create stories that are shocking, because that kind of content gets distributed widely on Facebook and other news platforms such as Twitter.
The Quora CEO called on Facebook and Twitter to structure their services so that media entities producing high-quality content will get more distribution and reach, rather than those producing low-quality clickbait or fake news. If they don’t, he suggested that the government might take an interest in helping force this to happen.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook vice-president in charge of the news feed, told the Information summit that the company is taking a number of steps to address the problem. The social network has formed a partnership with fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and Politifact, and has also released a series of tips to help readers detect fake news.
Some of the ways in which Facebook is structured don’t help, however. A number of observers noted that while Facebook advises users to check the URL of the story, it also makes it difficult to do this by hiding or obscuring the address, because it wants to keep users on the platform.
In a recent 6,000-word manifesto he published on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook is concerned about the quality of information that users get on the social network, and that he is committed to working to solve that problem. “We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously,” he said.