Facebook launches new 'Perspectives' feature to prevent site from influencing UK election too much

The social media site says it wants to make it easier for people to track down information about political parties’ manifestos

Aatif Sulleyman
Wednesday 31 May 2017 09:52
Facebook previews new feature that show political party responses to news articles

Facebook Perspectives has launched in the UK, becoming the company’s latest politically-focused online tool.

Mark Zuckerberg recently accepted that the platform has a responsibility to combat the spread of "fake news", and the Facebook CEO wants to clean up the site ahead of the UK general election next month.

Perspectives is a new interactive prompt that will appear in your News Feed, directly beneath articles about the general election.

Clicking or tapping on it will take you to another Facebook page called Political Party Positions, in which you’ll be able to compare the major political parties’ perspectives on a number of issues, including housing, energy, the economy and foreign affairs.

Aware of the intense scrutiny Perspectives will be subjected to, the company has been keen to stress the tool’s apparent impartiality.

It says the content within Perspectives will be written by the political parties themselves, and not Facebook. If, however, the parties choose to leave their any of their sections blank, Perspectives will carry a link to their official Facebook page instead.

“The tool is activated based on the type of article – not by the individual viewing it – and is presented up to three times a day,” said Facebook, announcing Perspectives.

That means different people reading the same article will see the exact same display and party content.

"People have told us it is sometimes difficult to find reliable and comprehensive information about the parties election manifestos," a Facebook spokesperson told The Independent.

"In response, we created a space that allows each party to share explanations of their campaigns directly to people through their Facebook page. People can choose to engage with different party Pages to learn about the issues that matter to them."

“We created this feature to make it easier for people to find information about political parties’ manifestos and is part of our ongoing work to help build an informed community.”

Perspectives will display different political parties depending on whether users are in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

The tool was rolled out in France ahead of the presidential election, and Facebook says it is “excited” to bring it to the UK.

Mr Zuckerberg initially dismissed suggestions that fake news stories spread on Facebook may have helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election.

“The idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea,” he said in November.

“I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news.”

However, he changed his stance soon after, saying in December, “Facebook is a new kind of platform. It's not a traditional technology company. It's not a traditional media company.

“You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it's used. We don't write the news that people read on the platform, but at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute the news, and we're an important part of the public discourse.”

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