- The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Facebook encountered renewed criticism Wednesday from an advocacy group concerned with the social network’s failure to eradicate the spread of so-called fake-news stories.

Avaaz, a nonprofit organization that monitors online disinformation, warned that fake-news stories continue to find large audiences on Facebook in spite of measures taken by the platform to limit the dissemination of bogus and debunked articles.

Fake-news stories are reports that have been debunked and accordingly flagged as phony by Facebook’s independent fact-checkers still manage to be shared and viewed millions of times by the platform’s users, the group reported.

An examination of the top 100 viral fake news stories about U.S. politics that remained on Facebook after being independently debunked found that they were posted a total of more than 2.3 million times by Facebook users, the Avaaz study concluded.

Combined, those 100 fake-news stories were viewed an estimated more than 158 million times, Avaaz reported, which is significantly more than the nearly 140 million Americans who voted in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

More than half of the views happened in the last three months, the report found, raising concerns about fake news easily finding a wide audience on Facebook as the next White House race nears.

“Every American who cares about free and fair elections in 2020, including the candidates and political parties, should be sounding the alarm about Facebook’s fake news problem,” Avaaz’s campaign director Fadi Quran wrote in the study. “This is a company that can easily reach every voter in this country, and their tools are accelerating a wave of political lies that leaves us less informed and more polarized.”

Facebook responded to the report by touting advances made by the platform since the last U.S. presidential race, when bogus, politically-charged news articles infamously spread widely.

“Multiple independent studies have found that we’ve cut the amount of fake news on Facebook by more than half since the 2016 election. That still means plenty of people see fake news, which is why we now have more visible warning labels flagging this type of content, and prominent notifications when someone tries to share it or already has,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

The two most popular fake-news stories about U.S. politics shared on Facebook recently criticized Republican and Democratic politicians, respectively, Avaaz reported. An article that falsely identified President Trump’s grandfather as being a pimp was viewed 29 million times, while another that claims House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is diverting Social Security money to be used toward impeaching Mr. Trump was viewed 24 million times, the report said.

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