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High Level News Appointment May Not Address Facebook’s “Fake News” Problem

Can it be coincidence that, with the “fake news controversy” continuing to dominate headlines, Facebook is seeking to add some editorial muscle by advertising for an experienced news executive to head Global News Partnerships, and to serve as its main liaison with news organizations worldwide?

That’s how some sources are representing the news, but it’s not clear that the appointee will have any concrete role in determining Facebook content—although he or she may well be on the hook for explaining (and apologizing) for it: “Be a public-facing voice of Facebook and its role in the news ecosystem.”

With COO Sheryl Sandberg reiterating the platform’s concerns about “hoaxes” and “misinformation,” one thing that might be causing anxiety at Menlo Park is the prospect of brands backing away from being associated with false stories about marital violence between the Clintons, Trump’s cabinet appointments, how Taylor Swift cast her vote—and worse. Marketers may not yet be showing signs of squeamishness, but with controversial political websites being blacklisted by advertisers, a drift towards the fringe is something Facebook surely wants to avoid.

The “fake news” controversy has extra legs, of course, when it’s one of a number of factors which, in the view of many, influenced the outcome of a tight election. The significance of Facebook engagement for President-elect Trump was something we looked at in a pre-election podcast.

Not that the newly advertised position will explicitly address these concerns. The head of Global News Partnerships will primarily engage with, and represent within Facebook, the mainstream news organizations with which the platform is partnering to serve authentic content.

Facebook has yet to figure out how it combines being a major publisher with being largely unedited.

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