31/10/2017 07:50 SAST | Updated 31/10/2017 07:50 SAST

Is Facebook Losing The Battle Against Fake News?

Facebook has hired fact checkers, but critics say this is not enough.

Thomas White/Reuters

Despite having hired a small team of news outlets to fact check news that circulates on its network, Facebook appears to be losing the battle against fake news. A Bloomberg report published by Fin24 says that Facebook has outsourced fact checking, but the process is too cumbersome to really tackle the problem.

Internet companies including Facebook and Google are set to testify in front of US Congressional committees this week on whether or not they are responsible for the information distributed by others on their networks.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed critics who said Facebook's hands-off approach to fake news could have contributed to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. As the problem became clearer, Zuckerberg vowed to fix it.

Facebook reportedly signed a one-year contract with ABC News, Snopes,, PolitiFact and Associated Press to sort through the news on the network and to try to identify fake news, arguing that employing outside firms would prevent it from becoming the arbiter of what is true or not true, Bloomberg reported.

But critics reportedly argue that this helps Facebook avoid regulation like a normal media firm, which would affect its profits.

But the fact checkers reportedly face challenges -- they have to debunk the same stories many times, and workers interviewed by Bloomberg said there was no way of measuring how effective their work is. And post can go viral before there was an opportunity to fact-check them.

Facebook told Bloomberg there was no "silver bullet" approach to fake news and said it would provide updates on its progress before the end of the year.

According to Reuters, on Monday, Facebook said that Russian operatives published 80,000 posts over two years in an effort to influence the 2016 elections. Roughly 126-million Americans could have seen the posts, the company said.

These posts reportedly contained divisive messages on issues like race and gun rights, Facebook said.

Facebook's advertising model also does not help its case. NPR reported that, because it is self-regulated, and all advertisers need is an account and a credit card, nefarious ads can't be vetted.

Facebook will continue giving evidence to US legislators this week.