Facebook recently released two job listings, June 7, for an English and Spanish speaking “News Credibility Specialists”. News outlets are abuzz whether Facebook will start monitoring fake news after CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement early this year that he did not want his company to be in the business of assessing which news organizations are credible and trustworthy.
The job roles previously titled “News Credibility Specialists” are now called “News Publisher Specialist”.
The post details that the roles are contract positions and would be based in Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The successful candidates would be tasked with “developing a deep expertise in Facebook’s News Credibility Program”. They will conduct investigations and help create a list of trustworthy news organizations. Facebook is looking into using the list for various site features such as the newsfeed and advertising system.
Since news outlets got word of the job postings – and people’s comments ensued – Facebook temporarily took down the ads and republished them with revisions. Aside from the changed job title, all mentions of the company’s news credibility program have been removed.
The Battle against Fake News and Propaganda
It is expected that Facebook’s move against fake news and propaganda will come to play in ensuring transparency with political ads. Facebook said it will require political ads to disclose who funded them and will restrict ads that are non-compliant.
As news organizations often pay to promote political articles, the credibility specialist would help Facebook differentiate articles from standard political ads.
In addition to the hiring of news publisher specialists, Facebook also announced that it is closing its trending section altogether. The company is shifting its focus from news in favour of friends and family’s stories.
Facebook’s Long-running Dilemma with Fake News and Content with Propaganda
Back in 2016, Facebook fired its editorial team after it was revealed that the trending news module was curated and tweaked by human beings. In an expose done by Gizmodo, a Facebook employee admitted to routinely suppressing conservative news. The source told Gizmodo that workers prevented right-wing stories from appearing in the trending news section even if they were organically trending among the users.
Facebook then introduced an algorithm to replace its staff in an attempt to battle the accusation of anti-conservative editing. They also hired third-party fact checkers to sift away hoax news sites and propaganda. Facebook’s fake news problem grew, however, when the algorithm allowed false stories such as Fox News letting Megyn Kelly go and an SNL comedian’s attack on Ann Coulter to enter the trending news section.
Today, it seems that Facebook is hiring staff once again to sort out the problem. Media outlets are quick to comment that this goes against Zuckerberg’s statement in January stating that they were not comfortable with deciding on the trustworthiness of a news outlet. The company then said it would survey the users to determine which sites and sources they deemed trustworthy.
Facebook’s move to hire news credibility specialists would not replace the Facebook surveys and third-party fact checkers, but they will be an addition to the sifting system. This move confuses people as having an in-house fact-checking team again will reopen accusations of bias.
Dealing with one controversy and a half, Facebook has a lot on its plate to keep consumers and investors’ trust and confidence.
Martin Mctavish of Intercom Media