Facebook has repeatedly insisted that the fake news stories which spread across its social network during the presidential election did not impact the results.
Mark Zuckerberg recently went so far as to say the idea that fake news on Facebook “influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.”
Now a new report from Gizmodo claims the company chose not to take steps to suppress fake news earlier this year because it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”
Facebook may have been scared of provoking a backlash from conservative users of the service in the wake of an episode earlier this year in which contractors employed by Facebook reportedly suppressed conservative-oriented news articles from the trending news section.
Citing anonymous sources, Gizmodo alleges that Facebook employees planned an update to the News Feed that would hide fake news and hoaxes earlier this year. But when Facebook realized the update “disproportionately” affected right-wing publishers, the update was reportedly shelved.
Facebook denied Gizmodo’s claim in a statement shared with Business Insider.
“The article’s allegation is not true,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party. We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes.”
A recent BuzzFeed investigation found that 38 percent of posts shared from three large right-wing politics pages on Facebook included “false or misleading information,” and that three large left-wing pages did the same nearly 20 percent of the time. A follow-up investigation by BuzzFeed revealed how teenagers in Macedonia create fake, pro-Trump news stories that are designed to go viral on Facebook.
President Obama recently called out Facebook’s role in spreading fake news for creating a “dust cloud of nonsense.”
Despite the backlash, Mark Zuckerberg has remained adamant that fake news represents a small portion of what is shared on Facebook.
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic,” the CEO wrote in a recent post. “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.”