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Combating fake news on Facebook ahead of 2018 midterms

FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON (SBG) - In a TV commercial now airing in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, Facebook is vowing to do better, acknowledging that while most users joined for the friends, they later "had to deal with spam, click-bait, fake news and data misuse ... that’s going to change.”

CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days in April testifying on the matter before Congress.

"What I think we’ve learned now, not just data privacy and fake news and foreign interference in elections, is that we need to take a more proactive role and a broader view of our responsibility," he said.

That proactive role has included using new algorithms to weed out fake news -- though last week that led to one group's publication of the Declaration of Independence being removed for violating standards on hate speech.

Facebook later apologized for the mistake.

“This is always the problem with relying on algorithms, right? On the one hand, you have enormous gains in efficiency. On the other hand, on the other hand, the computer is going to make a mistake the human would never make,” said Ethan Porter, who researches political misinformation at George Washington University, adding there’s a multi-layered challenge for the social media giant.

“On the one hand, you want people to have the ability to express themselves over Facebook -- that’s one of the virtues of the platform. On the other hand, you don’t want the platform to be used for gross abuses of truth,” he said in an interview Monday.

Recent reports outline a successful fake news campaign out of Mexico ahead of its election -- one suggesting Facebook knew about it and let it go on, so it could be studied -- raising new concerns from users ahead of the U.S. election.

In a statement, Facebook said efforts to fight fake news include removing some content, reducing the distribution of content that undermines the authenticity of the platform, and also working to inform people by putting additional context in information on their news feeds.

Facebook also says it has fact-checkers in 15 countries to review the stories and has reduced the distribution of a story by 80 percent once stories are rated as false.

The social media company says it’s made progress but still has a lot of work to do.

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