Facebook chief says 'decreasing financial incentives for false news' is focus but 'we don't want to be arbiter of truth'

Facebook takes its responsibilities over fake news “very seriously” and is “focused” on removing the financial incentives for peddling false information, top executive Sheryl Sandberg said.

The social media giant has faced fierce criticism after it was found to be taking money from hoaxers placing misleading adverts on the newsfeed page.

One advert claimed, entirely falsely, that Apprentice star Lord Sugar was “out of control”, and featured an apparently manipulated picture of the Amstrad founder with bruises on his face.

Facebook users who clicked on the advert were taken to a page made to look like The Sun newspaper website, in which Lord Sugar was wrongly quoted as supporting a money-making scheme.

The company has made high-profile efforts to tackle the proliferation of misinformation on its platform, unveiling a “multi-pronged strategy” including offering users advice for spotting hoaxes that appear in their newsfeeds.

Ms Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, denied that warning users about questionable news via “disputed content” signs reflected a transition from the company being a platform to a publisher.

She told BBC Newsnight (on an interview to be broadcast tonight, Monday): “We are really a platform and we take our responsibilities on false news very seriously.

“False news hurts everyone because it makes our community uninformed, it hurts our community, it hurts countries.

“And we know that people want to see accurate news on Facebook and that’s what we want them to see.”

She said Facebook did not want to be an “arbiter of the truth”, saying having such an editorial voice was not “appropriate for us”.

Sandberg said: “We think everyone needs to do their part. Newsrooms have to do their part, media companies, classrooms and technology companies.

“We’re focused on decreasing the financial incentives for false news because a lot of times it is financially motivated.

“We all have to do our part to make sure that people see accurate information and figuring out how we do that is something that we’re going to have to see and will evolve.

“But we know the goal, the goal is for people to see accurate information on Facebook and everywhere else.”

Press Gazette has launched a campaign urging Google and Facebook to take action to support genuine news publishers.

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