• 11.14.16

Facebook reportedly had tools to curb fake news but didn’t use them for fear of a conservative backlash

Facebook has been under fire over claims that the proliferation of fake news stories on its platform helped swing the election. While the company has owned up to the problem of hyper-partisan sites producing what looks like news content that goes viral on the site, Mark Zuckerberg has insisted that only 1% of posts on Facebook carry fake news reports.

Now, sources tell Gizmodo that Facebook actually considered banning fake news posts and has the tools to accomplish that task but it feared a backlash from conservatives. Here’s the money quote:

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

Fast Company reached out to Facebook for comment; we’ll update this post if we hear back. A spokesperson emailed Gizmodo a statement, somewhat sidestepping the issue: “We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party. We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes.” You can read the full Gizmodo article here

UPDATE: Facebook replied to Fast Company with an identical statement to what Gizmodo published. A spokesperson added, “The article’s allegation is not true.”CGW