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Did fake news on Facebook contribute to US election?

Some have questioned whether fake news and hoax articles have contributed to Donald Trump emerging victorious in the US elections last week.

After all, the social network has seemingly seen a rise in fake news trending after it fired human editors.

However, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied that these stories influenced results, taking to (surprise!) Facebook over the weekend to share his thoughts.

“After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here,” Zuckerberg elaborated.

Zuckerberg claims that the vast majority of stories seen on Facebook are real rather than fake news

“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

Zuckerberg added that it has already launched features that allow users to flag fake stories, saying Facebook would continue work in this department.

The Facebook founder says that figuring out the “truth” can be complex.

“While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”

Is Facebook a media company?

The Facebook founder also denied that the network was strengthening “echo chambers”, claiming that users were exposed to more diverse content.

Zuckerberg has been criticised after saying that Facebook isn’t a media company, with some calling for a return to human editors.

“News and media are not the primary things people do on Facebook, so I find it odd when people insist we call ourselves a news or media company in order to acknowledge its importance,” he explained.

“We are also serious about building software for companies, but we don’t call ourselves an enterprise software company. And we are serious about building planes to beam internet access, but we don’t call ourselves an aerospace company.”

Falling for dodgy stories? Use our guide to spot fake news on social media.

Featured image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings over seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More

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