Julia Louis-Dreyfus compares Facebook to Putin and Fox News as top source of election misinformation as the company tests new COVID-19 lie-detector (FB)

  • Facebook is planning to launch an early-warning system to alert moderators to potential misinformation about the coronavirus before it racks up millions of views, The Verge’s Casey Newton reported Thursday.
  • Facebook didn’t offer specifics, but implied it would look similar to a “virality circuit breaker” tool proposed in a recent report by the Center for American Progress, according to Newton.
  • Also on Thursday, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus took a dig at the company during her speech at the Democratic National Convention, lumping it in with Vladimir Putin and Fox News as sources of election misinformation.
  • Dreyfus’ joke highlighted Facebook’s struggles in recent months to clean up misinformation on its platform despite a recent spree of crackdowns.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook hinted Thursday at a new tool for fighting COVID-19 misinformation that would try to catch falsehoods about the pandemic before they go viral, The Verge’s Casey Newton reported on Thursday.

According to Newton, Facebook’s tool — which it’s already testing with a small number of users — will resemble one proposed in a recent report by the Center for American Progress, which CAP called a “virality circuit breaker.”

“Platforms should detect, label, suspend algorithmic amplification, and prioritize rapid review and fact-checking of trending coronavirus content that displays reliable misinformation markers, which can be drawn from the existing body of coronavirus mis/disinformation,” CAP suggested in its report.

CAP’s idea is modeled off similar tools already used by regulators in financial markets to pause trading when prices begin to rapidly increase or decrease, with the goal being to give investors more time to process new information before it dramatically moves the market.

In the context of social media, a “circuit breaker” could leverage what Facebook already knows about coronavirus misinformation to identify new posts with potential falsehoods or conspiracy theories that are starting to trend but haven’t yet racked up millions of views. The tool could then tell Facebook’s algorithm to temporarily stop amplifying the post while its moderators and third-party fact-checkers investigate.

Facebook did not respond to Business Insider’s questions about whether the tool would also be deployed against other categories of misinformation or when it would be rolled out more widely.

The company has historically been reluctant to take strong action to police content on its platform, though it has been more aggressive around COVID-19 and recently announced several changes including cracking down on various conspiracy theory and hate speech groups and efforts to promote accurate voting information.

Still, various reports from media outlets and researchers have found that Facebook’s algorithm funnels users toward misinformation and that executives knowingly looked the other way or ignored the rules to avoid political backlash, and that the company struggled to halt the growth of groups that it claimed to be cracking down on.

Facebook’s long-running battle with election misinformation, which has escalated this year in large part due to President Donald Trump’s repeated posts containing false claims about voting by mail, also became the butt of a joke during the Democratic National Convention this week.

During her speech at the DNC Thursday evening, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus lumped the social media giant in with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Fox News, characterizing the three as prominent sources of election misinformation.

“If we all vote, there is nothing Facebook, Fox News, and Vladimir Putin can do to stop us,” Louis-Dreyfus said.

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