Facebook Has Removed a Bunch of Spammy Political Sites. Is This a Fight We Can Win?
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before the United States Congress in April 2018, he said of his company, "It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy."
And they did do quite a bit in the months following. In the days following the Congress hearing alone, Facebook Philippines announced that it had launched a third-party fact-checking program for the Philippines, and media reported that a number of websites peddling fake news were banned from sharing on the social media network.
Has this made a dent in the proliferation of questionable content on social media? The jury is still out, though critics will point out that Facebook's efforts have all the makings of King Canute holding back the sea.
The latest initiative, announced yesterday, October 22, resulted in the removal of a what Facebook calls a "spam network" of 95 Pages and 39 accounts "for violating our spam and authenticity policies by encouraging people to visit low quality websites that contain little substantive content and are full of disruptive ads."
These pages, Facebook said, ranged "political to entertainment content, but all were sharing links to the same advertising click farms off Facebook." That's straightforward enough, but Facebook users and media outlets were quick to point out that the short list of Pages named in the announcement sounded...thematic:
- Duterte Media
- Duterte sa Pagbabago BUKAS
- Duterte Phenomenon
- DU30 Trending News
- Hot Babes
- News Media Trends
- Bossing Vic
- Pilipinas Daily News
- Like and Win,
- Manang Imee
- Karlo ang Probinsiyano
Alarmingly, Facebook also reported that "4.8 million followed at least one of these 95 Pages." This, clearly, is no small thing—if we can indeed call it a win against fake news and political manipulation on social media.
How likely is this going to make a difference? A quick search of the very short list published by Facebook shows that there are at least three pages with the same name that are still live: Du30 Trending News, Duterte Media, and Pilipinas Daily News. There are also several individual accounts named Karlo ang Probinsiyano.
We have confirmed that Facebook has indeed removed the Pages listed in their announcement, and that these ones only share the same name. However, these Pages also traffic solely in the same kind of low-quality content that Facebook cited, which serves to highlight the uphill battle against fake news that the social media network still has to fight.