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Facebook staff form secret group to debate on ‘fake news’

The task force reportedly includes employees from across the company and has already rebutted a statement made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a conference last week that the argument that fake news on Facebook affected the US election was “a pretty crazy idea”.

Facebook employees have reportedly formed a secret unofficial task force to question the role played by their company in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s victory through ‘fake news’.

The task force, according to a BuzzFeed News report, includes employees from across the company and has already rebutted a statement made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a conference last week that the argument that fake news on Facebook affected the election was “a pretty crazy idea”.

“It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” the report quoted one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division, as saying.

One employee said “more than dozens” of employees were involved, and that they had met twice in the last six days. At the moment, they are meeting in secret, to allow members of the group to speak freely and without fear of condemnation from senior management. The group plans to formalise its meetings and eventually make a list of recommendations to Facebook’s senior management. Another Facebook employee said while the task force remained small, “hundreds” of Facebook employees had expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s stance on fake news in private online chats, and wanted to support efforts to challenge that position.

In a statement to media last week, a Facebook spokesperson had said: “While Facebook played a part in this election, it was just one of many ways people received their information – and was one of the many ways people connected with their leaders, engaged in the political process and shared their views.”

Facebook came under fire in May amid accounts by recent employees that personal bias was pushing the platform’s ‘Trending Topics’ section towards more liberal news sites. In the wake of the report, Facebook fired its entire Trending Topics team, and said it would instead rely on an algorithm.

 

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