Facebook only took most of a week to deal with its latest misinformation crisis

Facebook is finally removing false claims about Oregon wildfires, half a week after ridiculous claims spread on the social network.

Facebook only took most of a week to deal with its latest misinformation crisis

Most people lucky enough to have extended family on Facebook have probably seen their fair share of quite frankly, weird shit. Social media in general has a real problem when it comes to false claims, but Facebook stands tall in the world of fake news propagation. Thankfully it looks like the company might be doing something about it... maybe... and probably long after it’s actually helpful.

The west coast of the United States is currently being ravaged by fires with images spreading all over social media with orange skies and smoke covered vistas. So heartbreaking, and so familiar to many Australian’s after our devastating fires earlier in the year.

Social media’s ability to spread these images so we can feel the plight of those in another country and even assist where possible are vitally important. Charities get boosted, people find help, and a general global solidarity can be found in these moments – when it’s all working at its best.

Unfortunately, this same ability also leads to the spread of devastating misinformation which has been the case relating to the fires in Oregon. NBCNews explains false reports claiming members of ‘antifa’ – a general ideological anti-fascist grouping – were arrested for starting fires in the region. But many far-right groups and Trump himself often present antifa as some kind of terrorist organisation.

This spread of misinformation led to official firefighters and sheriff offices begging people to stop spreading the lies. Not only are they inflammatory in nature but any misinformation around wildfires can be dangerous, especially if it gets in the way of real helpful communications from authorities.

And now, most of a week after the misinformation began to spread, it’s good news that yesterday Facebook’s Andy Stone explained in a series of tweets that they were removing false claims, though mysteriously didn’t seem to want to name any groups, organised or otherwise, in the implications.

Any step forward is a good step, right? But every time Facebook creates space for lies to propagate US tensions escalate in the lead up to the November election.

As Gizmodo put it:

Reports of armed vigilantes accosting journalists and Oregon residents have been steadily pouring in over the last 48 hours as extremists attempt to “defend” the area against antifa, even after federal and state officials vehemently debunked these claims.- Alyse Stanley, Gizmodo

It’s a hard task. It’s a complicated task. But the world needs Facebook to do better.