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Facebook has been hit with a ‘tsunami’ of fake political news in 2019, a report finds

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Fake political posts have been viewed more than 158 million times on Facebook this year, a new report has found.

The social media site was hit with a ‘tsunami of disinformation’ this year and unlike the 2016 election, this fake news is not coming from Russia – but from within the US.

Users have seen posts claiming President Donald Trump’s grandfather was a ‘pimp and tax evader’, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez called for a ‘motorcycle ban’, Ilhan Omar dined with ‘Islamic groups tied to terror’ and others that have been shared millions of times.

The report was put together by Avaaz, a global citizens’ movement that monitors election freedom and disinformation, which combed through Facebook looking for the top fake political news posts.

‘Politically relevant disinformation was found to have reached over 158 million estimated views, enough to reach every reported registered voter in the U.S. at least once,’ the report published on Wednesday morning said.

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Users have seen posts claiming President Donald Trump's grandfather was a 'pimp and tax evader', AOC called for a 'motorcycle ban', Ilhan Omar dined with 'Islamic groups tied to terror' and others that have been shared millions of times

Users have seen posts claiming President Donald Trump’s grandfather was a ‘pimp and tax evader’, AOC called for a ‘motorcycle ban’, Ilhan Omar dined with ‘Islamic groups tied to terror’ and others that have been shared millions of times

Although the public may be aware of the power Facebook has to influence the 2020 election, Luca Nicotra, a senior campaigner with Avaaz, told VICE News, ‘what is surprising is that the surge of disinformation affecting 2020 is happening much earlier than the 2016 election.’

Following their research, Avaaz determined that the disinformation was not linked to foreign meddlers, but US users were found to be sharing the misleading content. 

While investigating the top 100 political fake news stories shared on Facebook, the organization found the stories were posted over 2.3 million times.

The stories were also found to have 158.9 million views and 8.9 million interactions – this includes likes, comments and shares.

The group estimated that these posts were viewed 86 million times in just the last three months, which they concluded is three times more the previous three months. 

It was determined that the disinformation was not linked to foreign meddlers, but US users were found to be sharing the misleading content, like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was calling for a motorcycle ban

It was determined that the disinformation was not linked to foreign meddlers, but US users were found to be sharing the misleading content, like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was calling for a motorcycle ban

While investigating the top 100 political fake news stories, which included one about Ilhan Omar, shared on Facebook, the organization found the stories were posted over 2.3 million times, had 158.9 million views and 8.9 million interactions

While investigating the top 100 political fake news stories, which included one about Ilhan Omar, shared on Facebook, the organization found the stories were posted over 2.3 million times, had 158.9 million views and 8.9 million interactions

Almost all of the fake news was negative in nature, with 62 percent attacking Democrats and 29 percent against Republicans.

And the remaining nine percent were ‘positive’ posts that supported Republicans/Conservatives.

The fake news posts were a mix of memes, photos that were taken out of context, and articles from fringe websites like American Herald Tribune, Patriots Unite, Trump Maga Reports and Life News.

‘It is a tool that just works and everybody uses it,’ Nicotra said. 

‘Inaction from Facebook means that it is just a competitive disadvantage not to use disinformation.’

‘The fact there is this issue one year ahead of the elections means we don’t even know the scale this could take. It will be huge even without foreign interference.’

The group estimated that these posts were viewed 86 million views of these posts in just the last three months, which they concluded is three times more the previous three months

The group estimated that these posts were viewed 86 million views of these posts in just the last three months, which they concluded is three times more the previous three months

Almost all of the fake news was negative in nature, with 62 percent attacking Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, and 29 percent against Republicans

Almost all of the fake news was negative in nature, with 62 percent attacking Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, and 29 percent against Republicans

The fake news posts were a mix of memes, such as the one created about Tim Allen that spoke against Obamacare, and articles from fringe websites like American Herald Tribune, Patriots Unite, Trump Maga Reports and Life News

The fake news posts were a mix of memes, such as the one created about Tim Allen that spoke against Obamacare, and articles from fringe websites like American Herald Tribune, Patriots Unite, Trump Maga Reports and Life News

And all of the top 100 fake news posts are still floating around Facebook to this day.  

Fadi Quran, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: ‘Every American who cares about free and fair elections in 2020, including the candidates and political parties, should be sounding the alarm about Facebook’s fake news problem.’

‘This is a company that can easily reach every voter in this country, and their tools are accelerating a wave of political lies that leaves us less informed and more polarized.’

The report comes after Facebook has been under fire for the its defenses against fake news flooding its platform.

The report comes after Facebook has been under fire for the its defenses against fake news flooding its platform, which many users are viewing and sharing. This fake news post was shared 78,000 times

The report comes after Facebook has been under fire for the its defenses against fake news flooding its platform, which many users are viewing and sharing. This fake news post was shared 78,000 times

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The top fake news political posts mostly attacking Democrats. Facebook is fighting back the notion it should 'fact-check' campaign ads ahead of the 2020 election

The top fake news political posts mostly attacking Democrats. Facebook is fighting back the notion it should ‘fact-check’ campaign ads ahead of the 2020 election

In April, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shrugged responsibility for vetting political ads ahead of the 2020 election.

He said it ‘was not a company’s job’ to decide what the rules were as he said he was ‘confident’ Facebook would be able to fight efforts to interfere in the vote but could not guarantee it would be successful.

Zuckerberg has also defended the company’s refusal to ‘fact-check’ campaign ads just last month at Georgetown University, which he described as ‘an unfiltered take’ of his views on free expression and censorship.

‘We think people should be able to see what politicians have to say,’ he said in defending Facebook’s policy. ‘I don’t think it’s right for tech companies to censor politicians in a democracy.’

Many posts paint Democrats, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, in a bad light

Many posts paint Democrats, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, in a bad light

Other posts are simple memes that are sharing misleading information

Other posts are simple memes that are sharing misleading information

Zuckerberg admitted that he had considered banning political ads from Facebook entirely, noting that the revenue they brought in was ‘not worth the controversy’ that they generated.

He explained that after careful consideration, he decided that banning political ads was not the right choice for several reasons.

‘Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media chooses to cover,’ he said.

He also noted that there were many ads about political issues, such as healthcare and the environment, than about particular candidates.

He said that it would be difficult to determine where to draw the line in banning political issue ads, and ludicrous to allow anyone to have their say except for the actual candidates in elections.

WHAT TYPES OF FAKE PHOTOS AND VIDEO IS FACEBOOK SEARCHING FOR?

She said Facebook’s fact-checkers and algorithms are searching for three types of fake news commonly spread through images and video.

1) Manipulated or fabricated: Content that has been edited or doctored to spread fake news.

Facebook gives an example in which the face of Mexican politician Ricardo Anaya was photoshopped onto a US Green Card ahead of a key election.

The photo was created to make people believe he was from Atalanta, Georgia, despite running for election in Mexico.

2) Out of context: Facebook posts that take images out of their original context to spread misinformation.

An example given by Facebook shows a user claiming a Syrian girl seen in several photos is an ‘actor’ used as part of a western propaganda campaign.

The post appears to suggest the injured child was spotted in photos of three ‘attacks’ carried out by the forces of Putin-backed Bashar Hafez al-Assad. 

Facebook’s fake-news system was able to confirm that the photos posted were from the same attack on the Syrian city of Aleppo.

3) Text or audio claim: Facebook photo or video that is layered with text or audio that contains fake news.

A photo posted with a hoax caption picked out by Facebook claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was rated by BBC ‘researchers’ as 2018’s seventh ‘most corrupt prime minister in the world’.

 

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