Facebook’s struggle with Gateway Pundit highlights challenge of containing disinformation

9th December, 2021.      //   Market Intelligence, pandemics, Technology  // 

Facebook logo is displayed through broken glass in this illustration taken October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The Gateway Pundit, a far-right information web site, has used its Facebook web page – with greater than 630,000 followers – to submit bogus tales alleging the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Some commenters responded with threats of violence.

After Gateway Pundit posted a June story on Facebook that included debunked claims of voter fraud in Arizona, a commenter mentioned the governor and secretary of state needs to be “fed feet first through a woodchipper.” A narrative that includes false claims of vote-rigging in Fulton County, Georgia, drew feedback on Facebook calling for an election employee to be hanged or “shot for treason.”

For years, Facebook has imposed sanctions on Gateway Pundit’s account to restrict the unfold of its misinformation. But Gateway Pundit nonetheless makes use of its Facebook web page to amplify its reporting and lift cash: The web page contains a distinguished enchantment asking readers to purchase subscriptions to assist its “battle for survival.”

Gateway Pundit’s persevering with presence on Facebook illustrates the platform’s worldwide struggle to cease the unfold of disinformation and to stability content-policing with free-speech issues. Facebook has taken a barrage of criticism this yr from critics and an organization whistleblower who say its practices stoke anger and division to extend person engagement.

In an announcement to Reuters, Facebook mentioned it seeks to label misinformation and “reduce its spread,” utilizing reality checkers and synthetic intelligence to establish false or deceptive materials and warning readers who attempt to share it. Facebook mentioned repeat offenders, such because the Gateway Pundit, are topic to harder sanctions, together with having their posts pushed to the underside of customers’ information feeds (the lists of posts they see), and being barred from Facebook’s content-promotion companies.

But Facebook nearly by no means removes the offending posts or shuts down the pages – that occurs solely in uncommon circumstances, akin to posts pushing COVID misinformation, the corporate says. Sites that immediately threaten violence additionally could also be shut down, however account holders are usually not held chargeable for feedback on their pages.

Twitter has taken a extra aggressive strategy with Gateway Pundit, completely suspending the @gatewaypundit account of Jim Hoft, the location’s founder and editor, in addition to the account of his twin brother, Joe Hoft, a author.

Jim Hoft declined a request for remark; Joe Hoft didn’t reply to remark requests.

Facebook and Twitter each have been blasted by right-leaning politicians for what they name censorship of conservative voices. Jim Hoft testified in a 2018 congressional listening to that his web site’s site visitors from Facebook had tanked after the platform imposed restrictions on the unfold of the Pundit’s content material, saying such sanctions make “book burning” look benign.

Yet Gateway Pundit’s site visitors has boomed: In the wake of the 2020 election, it peaked at almost 50 million visits a month, in response to one estimate, illustrating the facility of viral disinformation. Reuters discovered the location’s often-debunked election-fraud claims have been cited in about 100 of greater than 800 threatening or harassing messages despatched to election officers since final November.

Facebook has lengthy acknowledged Gateway Pundit as a supply of false and divisive content material. A July 2019 inside report on “potential misinformation and polarization risks” listed the location as one of Facebook’s “common misinfo offenders.” The report was amongst a cache of paperwork supplied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product supervisor who left the corporate in May and has been a number one public critic of its practices.

Reuters recognized a dozen Gateway Pundit tales on Facebook that contained baseless election-fraud claims, two of which Facebook labeled as containing false data. Under 4 of these tales, 9 Facebook customers referred to as for the execution of election employees or officers. Only one of these 4 tales was flagged by Facebook for containing false data.

In August, Gateway Pundit reported {that a} Milwaukee official had been threatened after being featured in Pundit tales alleging voter fraud. The outcome? Even extra threats. On the location’s Facebook web page, one reader commented: “There is only one punishment acceptable for traitors, being drawn and quartered.”

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