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The battle to end fake news: A qualitative content analysis of Facebook announcements on how it combats disinformation.

First Published October 10, 2019 Research Article

https://doi.org/10.1177/1748048519880729


International Communication Gazette

Article Information

Volume: 82 issue: 1, page(s): 60-81

Article first published online: October 10, 2019; Issue published: February 1, 2020

Petros Iosifidis Department of Sociology, City, University of London, London, UK

Nicholas Nicoli Department of Communications, University of Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus

Corresponding Author: Petros Iosifidis, Department of Sociology, City, University of London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB, UK. Email: p.iosifidis@city.ac.uk

Abstract

The recent spread of online disinformation has been profound and has played a central role in the growth of populist sentiments around the world. Facilitating its progression has been politically and economically motivated culprits who have ostensibly taken advantage of the digital freedoms available to them. At the heart of these freedoms lie social media organisations that only a few years earlier techno-optimists were identifying as catalysts of an enhanced digital democracy. In order to curtail the erosion of information, policy reform will no doubt be essential. The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Disinformation and ‘fake news’ Report and Cairncross Review, and the European Commission’s Report on Disinformation are three recent examples seeking to investigate how precisely such reform policy might be implemented. Just as important is how social media organisations take on more responsibility and apply self-regulating mechanisms that stifle disinformation across their platforms (something the aforementioned reports identify). Doing so will go a long way in restoring legitimacy in these significant institutions. Facebook (which includes Instagram and Whatsapp), is the largest social media organisation in the world and must primarily bear the burden of this responsibility. The purpose of this article is to offer a descriptive account of Facebook’s public announcements regarding how it tackles disinformation and fake news. Based on a qualitative content analysis covering the period November 16th 2016–March 4th 2019, this article will set out some groundwork on how to hold social media platforms more accountable for how they handle disinformation.