Facebook refuses to remove fake news, but will demote it

Forget about getting rid of fake news, Facebook said on Thursday. It might be raw sewage, but hey, even raw sewage has a right to flow, right?

In the name of free speech, Facebook said, it’s keeping all the bilge water, be it pumped out by the right or left… though the platform intends to push fakery down deeper into the holding tank by demoting it.

As Facebook said in its tweet, demotion translates into an 80% loss of future views, and the punishment extends to Pages and domains that repeatedly share bogus news.

This latest fake-news spasm comes on the heels of an event Facebook held in New York on Wednesday that blew up in its face. Journalists got to feed on shrimp cocktail, listen to a short presentation, and then engage in a question-and-answer session, all in the name of convincing the press that the social media network has finally reached some kind of beachhead in the war against disinformation.

Facebook’s effort fell apart when CNN reporter Oliver Darcy began to grill Facebook Head of News Feed John Hegeman about its decision to allow Alex Jones’ conspiracy news site InfoWars on its platform.

How, Darcy asked, can the company claim to be serious about tackling the problem of misinformation online while simultaneously allowing InfoWars to maintain a page with nearly one million followers on its website?

Hegeman’s reply: the company…

…does not take down false news.

CNN quoted Hegeman’s rationalization:

I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards. [InfoWars hasn’t] violated something that would result in them being taken down.

I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. And different publishers have very different points of view.

InfoWars is the site where conspiracy theorist Alex Jones airs his notions: notions that include labelling as “liars” the grieving families of children gunned down in school shootings such as that at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In YouTube videos, Jones has over the years said that the Sandy Hook shooting has “inside job written all over it,” has called the shooting “synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured,” has claimed “the whole thing was fake,” said that the massacre was “staged,” called it a “giant hoax,” and suggested that some victims’ parents lied about seeing their dead children.

Sandy Hook is only one of his many focuses: earlier this year, InfoWars smeared student survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting with baseless attacks, portraying them in one video as actors, just as he’s classified Sandy Hook victims as child actors. Most recently, InfoWars has pushed an unfounded conspiracy theory about how Democrats, “infuriated” by President Trump “bringing America back,” planned to start a civil war on 4 July.

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that publishes this type of gunk, declaring that it passes muster with regards to community standards. Google, just like Facebook, considers Jones’ YouTube rants to be kosher as far as community standards go.

That, in spite of multiple defamation lawsuits having recently been filed against Jones by Sandy Hook parents. Those parents claim that Jones’s “repeated lies and conspiratorial ravings” have led to death threats, among other trauma. Another lawsuit has been filed against Jones by a man whom InfoWars incorrectly identified as the Parkland school shooter.

Start typing and press Enter to search