Facebook Can Fight Fake News -- What About Fake Politicians?

Facebook has taken to the pages of The Telegraph to explain how it is better prepared than ever before for the upcoming UK general election.

The talk is of being better prepared to fight fake news. That is good news -- but the question remains: what about the half-truths?

Clearly, there have been attempts by rogue elements to spread fake news during the last US Presidential election as well as the UK's Brexit referendum and 2017 general election. Some of it is pretty obvious, and just set up to appeal to knuckle-dragging yobs who want to believe a tirade of xenophobic rants that back up their opinion that the UK is better off "taking back control" of its laws and scraping freedom of movement.

The fact, Facebook will be working more closely than ever with Full Fact, the organisation set up to spot and flag up fake news, and that is very welcome. However, the question remains: what about the half-truths?

What about those facts that can be debunked and argued against, but still have a modicum of truth -- rendering them not a fact but not entirely fake news either, so long as you really want to stretch the meaning of truthful?

We had two great examples in the Brexit referendum campaign. The most obvious is Boris in front of his bus suggesting that we send GBP350m a year to the EU and should invest the money in the NHS instead. It was a half truth. In fact, technically it was a lie. The full bill would amount to his given figure, but in the average year, the UK gets a rebate of 25%. In 2016, this meant that a GBP19bn bill was reduced by GBP5bn. The balance is paid. The full amount is never sent to the EU.

There is, of course, the matter of EU money being spent on projects in the UK.

Again, this can vary, but will typically come out at nearly the same figures as the rebate. Put simply, the rebate and money spent by the EU within the UK means the overall bill -- quoted by Boris -- is actually halved.

Of course, he knew this. He just decided to be liberal with the truth. It was the same with the constant threat rammed down peoples' throats that Turkey was about to join the EU and flood the country with immigrants. There is some truth in this, but the whole truth is that Turkey has been "on the verge" of joining the EU for more than 20 years.

With its current leadership, it is more likely to spend the next 20 years waiting on the sidelines rather than becoming a member. One must not forget that EU members can put immigration limits on the first few years of a new member joining the EU. The UK has had the power to do this, but never has.

These are two of the big clarion cries from the Leave campaign,  and yet neither is true. But then again, if you really want to stretch the meaning of the word, neither is a complete lie either -- if you really want to believe outrage more than the actual situation. 

So that will be the test for Facebook. What will they do to handle these half-truths -- one-sided arguments that are closer to a lie than the truth?

Fake news is far more troublesome that it appears. The devil is in the details.

Facebook has a far bigger job than it may realise in ruling on when a one-sided argument becomes fake news and when it should be permitted under free speech.

It may be ready for rogue bots and obvious fake news, but devious politicians? I'm not so sure.

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