Facebook’s deputy general counsel told an audience at the Ninth Circuit’s judicial conference in San Francisco on Thursday that his company’s efforts to limit the spread of viral misinformation known as “fake news” required a careful balance of corporate responsibility and First Amendment concerns.
Acxcording to law360.com, the remarks came during a panel discussion on fake news, which moderator Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, defined as false news stories that sources posing as legitimate media outlets disseminate knowing they aren’t true.
Paul Singh Grewal, who left his post as a U.S. magistrate judge to join Facebook last year, noted the social media giant’s March rollout of a label warning users if a link includes false or disputed content. Those warnings are fueled by partnerships with the Associated Press, Politifact and other fact-checking watchdogs, Grewal said.
“It's not just Facebook that is deemed the arbiter of truth, and I think that's important,” he said.
But he added that the First Amendment protects inaccurate speech as well, and that Facebook has to walk a line between truth and censorship.
“I don't think in most instances the answer is just to shut down the speech," he said. "When you attempt to share the link, you are warned that what you are about to share is false. But if people still want to share it, they can. We want to preserve a space around that speech.”
The panel was part of a four-day conference meant to address improvements and new issues within the circuit that’s home to Silicon Valley. This year’s event was themed “Law, Society, and Technology: The Challenges and Opportunities Ahead.” The fake news panel touched on several legal issues that stem from the rise of viral misinformation in the internet age, with panelists representing new and traditional information outlets.
NBC Universal Group General Counsel Susan Weiner described the careful way that journalists at NBC analyzed purportedly leaked National Security Administration documents to determine whether they were fake, by comparing them to other leaked documents and doing a “forensic analysis” of the formatting and even the spelling. She said standards lawyers at the networks shared in these responsibilities.
“It’s critical for respected news organizations to fight this and not be caught in the trap,” she said. “You have to take the time to get it right.”
The panel also anticipated more regulation around fake news, referencing recently passed legislation in Germany that fines social media outlets if they don’t respond to fake news and hate speech on their platforms within 24 hours. Grewal said such regulations created “absolute incentives,” but that it was in Facebook’s interest to address misinformation anyway, since “user trust in the platform is paramount.”