Facebook has faced backlash after fake news sites used the platform to spread misinformation about the nominees during the 2016 presidential election. But the social media giant's chief operating officer said Thursday the impact fake news had on the election has been exaggerated.
“There have been claims that it swayed the election, and we don't think it swayed the election,'' Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.
Sandberg added that Facebook takes its responsibilities seriously and is looking into ways to keep fake news from spreading online without compromising freedom of expression.
During the election, fake news sites masked as informative websites published stories making untrue claims, including Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton running a sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. The latter led one man to bring a military-style rifle to the pizza shop in a misguided attempt to rescue child sex slaves he thought were held inside.
Edgar Maddison Welch is now facing jail time after opening fire inside Comet Ping Pong. He told The New York Times "the intel on this wasn't 100 percent," but wouldn't dismiss the online claims.
A few weeks after the election, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed a new initiative to combat the diffusion of fake news. He wrote that he plans on "improving Facebook technical ability to detect misinformation, making it easier for users to report stories as untrue, working with fact checking organizations to create third-party verification and labeling stories that other users have flagged as false," NBC News reported.
While on "Today," Sandberg also revealed Facebook’s top global stories in 2016. The American election dominated for the second year in a row as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took center stage internationally.
Sandberg said that she thought the new Facebook Live feature allowed Americans to engage with the political process in a way they hadn’t before. By being able to live stream clips from the debates, for example, the electorate had unprecedented access to political discourse at all hours and regardless of location. Sandberg also said Facebook Live has given the Black Lives Matter movement visibility that catapulted the civil rights protesters into the spotlight.
“Black Lives Matter has been happening for years,” Sandberg said. “This was the first year it broke into top 10 on Facebook, and we think that's partially because the power of live helps people bear witness."