UPDATED: Facebook says both sides share fake news, defends Infowars’ presence on its platform

Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting way of prioritizing "high quality news."

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Fake news has become a major headache for Facebook. Despite initially downplaying the impact that his platform had on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg eventually changed his tune and said the platform would prioritize “high quality” news.

Zuckerberg has seemed sensitive to claims of left-wing bias over the past year, partnering with a right-wing outlet to fact-check stories, pandering to conservative conspiracy theories, and hiring two major conservative groups to determine whether the platform displays a liberal bias.

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On Wednesday, Facebook announced the lineup of its series of news shows produced exclusively for the platform. Nearly half of the scheduled content consists of Fox News programming:

Later that day, Facebook hosted a “Fighting Fake News on Facebook” question and answer session with reporters in New York City. CNN’s Oliver Darcy asked John Hegeman, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, to explain why Infowars is still allowed on the platform despite being notorious for spreading baseless conspiracy theories:

Darcy noted the obvious hypocrisy in Hegeman’s response and asked how Facebook can say it’s committed to fighting fake news if someone like Alex Jones doesn’t violate community standards “just for being false.” Hegeman didn’t really have an explanation:

Alex Jones’ Infowars has a verified Facebook account despite claiming the Newtown school shooting was a hoax, the Parkland school shooting survivors were crisis actors, Democrats were planning a Civil War, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were an “inside job,” the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory was real, chemicals in the water turned “the freaking frogs gay,” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are demons, the CIA is making you itchy and NASA controls the U.S.


Update: Facebook tried to do some damage control via Twitter on Thursday. In response to questions about why Infowars is still allowed on its platform, Facebook cited free speech:

Darcy was quick to note Facebook’s inconsistent position:

In response to NBC News’ Ben Collins, Facebook went further on its thinking:

Later, Facebook cited Infowars’ continued presence on YouTube and Twitter in replies to Crooked Media’s Tommy Vietor and the New York Times’ Kevin Roose:

Despite having 13.5 million Twitter followers, Facebook’s initial response to Darcy quickly achieved ratio status.