Latest in Culture

Image credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Facebook patent hints at an automated solution for fake news

The question is: could it and should it have implemented this technology sooner?
555 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Facebook may have said that it's stepping up its fight against fake news in the past few weeks, but there are signs that it might have had a way to tackle this problem sooner. A recently published USPTO filing from 2015 reveals that Facebook has applied for a patent on technology that would automate the process of removing "objectionable content." It's ostensibly for eliminating hate speech, porn and other material that Facebook has objected to for years, but the system could easily be applied to bogus stories as well.

The approach would supplement user-based content flagging with machine learning. The automatic system would generate a score for content based on the likelihood that it's objectionable, helping human moderators decide which material to cut. It'd look at the number of users objecting to content, for example, as well as the age of the account making a complaint (to discourage harassment and trolling). The AI-like code would study valid flags and learn to make more informed decisions about objectionable content.

This is just a patent application, and there's no guarantee that Facebook will either secure the patent or use it on its social network. A spokeswoman tells The Verge that the company regularly applies for patents it doesn't use, and that this content removal plan shouldn't be interpreted as a clue to its strategy.

However, the patent's existence shows that Facebook has been thinking about improved ways of pulling content for a while, and that the issue is really just coming to a head following the US election. Why hasn't it implemented this technology, though? There are a few reasons why it might have been hesitant: it won't help if someone actually believes the fake news, if their Facebook habits make it unlikely to show up, or if they just ignore it. It might also have been reluctant to do anything that would fuel accusations of bias. Nonetheless, the patent application doesn't help Facebook much -- it implies that the company simply chose not to implement a technical solution for fake news, even if there were perfectly valid reasons for holding off.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
555 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

View
Uber's first safety review contains thousands of sexual assault reports

Uber's first safety review contains thousands of sexual assault reports

View
Qualcomm teams up with 'Pokémon Go' developer to make AR glasses

Qualcomm teams up with 'Pokémon Go' developer to make AR glasses

View
Wirecutter's best deals - Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth headphones drop to $200

Wirecutter's best deals - Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth headphones drop to $200

View
Microsoft's redesigned Office mobile apps read text out loud

Microsoft's redesigned Office mobile apps read text out loud

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr