In the wake of the 2016 election, Facebook has been receiving an ongoing wave of criticism for its handling of fake news in its newsfeed used by more than a billion daily users. Initially, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed concerns about fake news, arguing that it was a “pretty crazy idea” to blame Facebook for Donald Trump’s upset win. Zuckerberg’s blasé response triggered a fierce debate inside the social media giant. And now Facebook is changing its tune in a dramatic way. In a Thursday blog post, Adam Mosseri, the Facebook executive responsible for the newsfeed, announced that Facebook will begin working with prominent third-party fact-checking organizations like Snopes, Factcheck.org, and Politifact to verify news articles.
Stories flagged by these fact-checking organizations will be marked as “disputed” in the newsfeed, and these stories will be penalized in the newsfeed algorithm, meaning that they’ll tend to show up further down the list but won’t be removed from Facebook altogether. It’s exactly the kind of ambitious steps that Facebook’s critics have been demanding for weeks. It’s also likely to cause a backlash among conservatives, many of whom believe that a company from liberal Silicon Valley will simply use the “fake news” label as a pretext for suppressing conservative viewpoints generally. But that’s a shortsighted concern. In the long run, it’s not good for conservatives for the right-of-center political conversation to be strongly influenced by totally bogus news stories. Facebook’s new approach will raise the profile of more responsible conservative news organizations like the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, and National Review. And in the long run, that’s going to be good for both the conservative movement and American democracy more generally.