“For so long, we had resisted having standards about whether something’s newsworthy because we did not consider ourselves a service that was predominantly for the distribution of news. And that was wrong! We have a responsibility here. I think we recognize that. This has been a learning for us.”
Elliot Schrage — Facebook’s vice president of global communications, marketing, and public policy
French President Francois Hollande has accused Russia of trying to interfere in the upcoming Presidential campaign. At the request of several Intelligence Agencies, Facebook and Google are joining forces in France to take a stand against ‘fake news’ propaganda. But some fear that the cure might be worse than the disease. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
Earlier this year, France’s primary intelligence agency warned the country’s government that Russia has launched a secret operation to try to influence the outcome of the upcoming French presidential election in favour of the far-right.
According to the Paris-based weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, France’s Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) has notified the country’s leadership that a covert operation by the Kremlin is already underway, and is expected to intensify in the run-up to April’s election. The spy agency allegedly believes that Russian efforts aim to promote Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right National Front.
In January, the DGSE — the French General Directorate for External Security — warned that Kremlin-funded hackers and cybersoldiers were trying to distort the presidential campaign.
The US 2016 Election
Facebook, and to a lesser extend Google and Twitter, have come under particular scrutiny after a proliferation of fake news stories went viral during the US presidential election campaign. [One story claimed that pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump. See picture above.]
Facebook Under Pressure from the IC
The Intelligence Community believe that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook should be doing more to combat the emerging threat of fake news.
Paul Chichester, the GCHQ Director for Operations has stated that these companies must recognise their “social responsibility” and help tackle misinformation spread by state-backed groups.
“We don’t own those platforms, we don’t run them, the industry does. It’s really important that they do recognise they carry some social responsibility.”
“Technology companies, they’re huge global companies with responsibilities of nation states sometimes to tackle some of these problems.”
First, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that it is “pretty crazy” to suggest that fake news on Facebook was at all responsible for Trump’s surprising electoral success. But he quickly made a U-turn and posted a more nuanced mea culpa.
“A lot of you have asked what we’re doing about misinformation, so I wanted to give an update.The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously.
Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information.
We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.” [November 19 2016]
Google, Facebook and various French media groups have launched a collaborative initiative aimed at combating the spread of disinformation online. According to an explainer on the website:
“The public will be encouraged to participate by submitting questions and links to disputed sites and social content for CrossCheck to investigate.”
“CrossCheck brings together expertise from media and technology industries to ensure hoaxes, rumors and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported.”
“With the French presidential election as its primary focus, journalists from organizations across France will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads or news sites.”
Facebook will provide “dedicated tools and media literacy efforts that will help to explain the verification process and keep relevant audiences up to date with confirmed and disputed information relating to the election”.
As mainstream news organizations have lost their grip on the control of information, the war on ‘Fake News’ does not appear to have an easy solution, or much of a solution at all. As Snowden recently asked:
“How can we solve the “fake news” problem when even the New York Times prints claims its own writers admit are false?”
There is also a significant risk that the proposed solution could actually backfire. The current deep-seated distrust for mainstream media and the known — as well as suspected — relationships between the US Intelligence Community and these social networks may very well complicate the issue in a way that nobody anticipated.
Google And Facebook Work To Prevent Fake News In French Election
Facebook and Google are joining forces in France to take a stand against ‘fake news’ stories.
The project is called CrossCheck and it was announced at the News Impact Summit. It will “help verify news stories being shared among the French electorate.”
French 2017 Presidential Election — Facebook and Google to tackle ‘fake news’ stories