Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook should not be "arbiter of truth" in fake news fight insisting it's a platform not a publisher

Lynsey Barber
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Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook is a platform not a publisher (Source: Getty)

Facebook does not want to be the "arbiter of truth", operating chief Sheryl Sandberg has said.

Amid criticism of the social media company that it is not doing enough to tackle fake news she insisted Facebook is not a publisher.

“No, I don't think we have to be the publisher and we definitely don't want to be the arbiter of the truth," she said in an interview with the BBC's Newsnight due to air on Monday evening.

We don't think that's appropriate for us. We think everyone needs to do their part. Newsrooms have to do their part, media companies, classrooms and technology companies. We're focused on decreasing the financial incentives for false news because a lot of times it is financially motivated.

Facebook said it would crackdown on how advertising appeared alongside fake news in November, along with Google.

Read more: Facebook wants to read your mind (and that's closer than you realise)

Asked whether its efforts to tackle fake news were taking Facebook into the territory of being a publisher, Sandberg said: “We are really a platform and we take our responsibilities on false news very seriously. False news hurts everyone because it makes our community uninformed, it hurts our community, it hurts countries. And we know that people want to see accurate news on Facebook and that's what we want them to see.”

In recent months, Facebook has made changes to its trending topics features to limit how fake news is spread and has offered users the ability to flag content they believe is false. It has also worked with fact checking organisation Full Fact to issue advice to users on how to spot fake news.

But the company is under pressure from authorities. In Germany, lawmakers have proposed multimillion pound fines for Facebook, Twitter and Google if they fail to tackle fake news and hate speech. And in the UK MPs have launched an inquiry into the matter.

Asked whether fake news had become a fact of life or if it could be stamped out, Sandberg said:

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“Well, we all have to do our part to make sure that people see accurate information and figuring out how we do that is something that we're going to have to see and will evolve. But we know the goal, the goal is for people to see accurate information on Facebook and everywhere else.”

Her comments echo those of Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg who said the firm "must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves".

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