Facebook May Face Another Fake News Crisis in 2020

And in 2021. And 2022.

Will Oremus
OneZero
Published in
14 min readDec 3, 2019

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TThree and a half years after the pope endorsed President Donald Trump (or didn’t), Facebook has put in a lot of work to clean up its News Feed. But has it made a difference?

In October, a bogus news article claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had diverted $2.4 billion from Social Security to pay for the impeachment of Trump. “ENOUGH!!!!!!! NO ONE IS SUPPOSED TO TOUCH THAT MONEY!!!!” begins one top comment on the story in a Trump-Pence 2020 group. “Treasonous worthless bitch,” reads another. The article was shared on Facebook more than a million times.

The claim is a classic example of the type of fabricated political propaganda, popularly known as “fake news,” that flooded Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election, and the company later pledged to address. Facebook has partnered with fact-checkers, added warning labels to debunked stories (then removed them, then added them again), tweaked its algorithm to reduce those stories’ spread, and punished state-sponsored election meddlers. Yet a recent study from the nonprofit Avaaz found that the social network’s misinformation problem might actually be worse in 2020 than it was in 2016 — a startling conclusion that made headlines in a number of outlets, including CNN, Columbia Journalism Review, and Politico.

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