Facebook tries to put journalists’ fears to bed

But are they convinced?

Áine Kerr, who manages global journalism partnership at Facebook, addressed accusations of fake news and paywall fears this morning in Sydney at Storyology — the Walkley Foundation’s annual conference for journalists.

““It’s not going to be any one thing that’s going to solve this,” Áine Kerr, who leads global journalism partnerships, Facebook, delivers the keynote speech at Storyology 2017

Facebook got a lot of slack following the 2016 US Presidential election for allowing fake news stories to reach viral status.

One totally fabricated viral story had Donald Trump telling People magazine in 1998 “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country.” The story had the potential to impact results.

Since then Facebook has implemented a lot of crowd-sourcing, social and algorithmic changes to crack down on the way news is curated on its platform, with more changes to be put into action in the coming months.

“It’s not going to be any one thing that’s going to solve this,” Kerr said.

Facebook is making it possible for readers to report troublesome content; and using algorithmic software to locate fake news. The social media network is also enlarging the logos of publications on articles so readers can quickly identify sources.

In other words, as Kerr said a few times, Facebook’s goal is to “amplify the good and mitigate the weak.”

We asked some attending journalists what they thought about Facebook’s fake news policy.

Melanie Bagg, communications director at the Australian Academy of Science, said, “I’m actually really pleased with what Facebook’s doing. We’re in an everyday battle against false news around the world in terms of science, and Facebook is doing a great job at flagging things that can be fake news.”

Connie Levett, who was until recently a Fairfax senior digital editor, was also encouraged by Facebook’s initiatives. “Some I was aware of, but not all,” she added.

“I was impressed by the pro-active way in which they’re addressing what’s obviously a very serious problem.”

But some were skeptical that it would be effective.

Said Ginger Gorman, freelance investigative reporter: “I don’t think algorithms, no matter how good, can tell apart fake news. Algorithms can’t capture the breadth of human experience.”