WASHINGTON: The public has a tough message for Facebook: The social media giant needs to stop fake news – especially when it’s funded by Russia.
According to a new poll commissioned by the Factual Democracy Project, a group trying to fight the spread of intentionally fabricated news stories on social media, 73% of voters says Facebook should not allow foreign powers to run ads targeting Americans during an election.
It’s not just Russian-linked fake news the public is concerned about either: 78% of people said they want Facebook to prevent inaccurate stories from being widely shared on its platform.
The poll’s findings come after reports that Russia funded ads on Facebook targeting select groups of voters in 2016, with the intent of helping Donald Trump win the presidency and sowing division in the country at large. Those reports have put the spotlight on Facebook, with critics charging the company needs to do more to combat inaccurate reporting.
“Their consumers, at least in this poll, think of them as a media company,” said Melissa Ryan, founder of Factual Democracy Project. “And they want them to keep fake news off the platform.”
Ryan is a longtime Democratic political operative, an alum of EMILY’s List and Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign who this year started FDP after an online fundraising campaign.
FDP used Public Policy Polling to conduct the survey. The Democratic firm interviewed 865 registered voters from Sept 22 to Sept 25, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
In an interview, Ryan emphasised that Facebook should be held to the same standard as traditional media companies that are responsible for vetting the accuracy of stories before they publish.
The poll, she said, shows the public feels the same way: 73% of voters said they think “Facebook should hold itself to the same standard as other media companies to only publish accurate stories about candidates during election season.”
“If you’re getting news from social media, it makes sense you would think of it as a news service,” Ryan said.
On Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – in part responding to criticism earlier in the day from President Donald Trump – said he had hoped to “create a platform for all ideas.”
“Trump says Facebook is against him,” Zuckerberg said. “Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”
He went on to write that although disinformation on Facebook might have played a role in the campaign, Facebook was still an overwhelmingly positive force on the democratic process.
“The data we have has always shown that our broader impact – from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote – played a far bigger role in this election,” he said.
Facebook officials, along with executives at Google and Twitter, are expected to testify in the coming months about the 2016 election.
The poll found that 37% of voters had a favourable view of Facebook, compared with 36% who didn’t. Another 27% didn’t have a view of the company.
Among Trump voters, only 29% had a positive view of Facebook, compared with 49% who didn’t. The service was more popular with Clinton voters, 44% of whom had a favourable view of the company. — McClatchy Washington Bureau/Tribune News Service