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Berkeley, Cornell partner with Facebook to identify 'fake news'

Published: June 17, 2019
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Source: Campus Reform

Facebook is partnering with the University of California-Berkeley, Cornell University, and the University of Maryland to identify fake news.

The tech giant is investing $7.5 million into projects at the three schools, according to a UC Berkeley news release. The two Berkeley professors who will work with Facebook are Hany Farid and Alexe Efros, who are both part of UC-Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. 

Farid has been a longtime critic of social media companies and the danger that doctored videos and images pose online. The professor has commented on this subject for CNN and admitted to the school that he is “skeptical” of the new partnership with Facebook. 

“I have been skeptical,” he told Berkeley News. “But I have agreed to work with [Facebook] for a year on the technology. For over a decade now, I’ve been pushing them and other big tech companies to take more responsibility for social media, for misinformation and fake news. I’d like to see a healthier online experience, and I am hoping that this is a first step in that direction.” 

Farid added that his work will involve creating technology to detect “fake news, fake images, and fake videos.”

Campus Reform reached out to Farid with questions about how such a technology could detect fake news without political bias, but received no response in time for publication. 

Farid wasn’t the only member of the Berkeley community who was skeptical. The Berkeley College Republicans told Campus Reform that while well-intentioned, this effort could lead to censorship of conservative content. 

“The underlying premise of Facebook's repeated crusades to eliminate misinformation and fake content is the belief that Americans are exceedingly gullible and need benevolent overlords to protect them from consuming the wrong information,” Berkeley College Republicans External VP Rudra Reddy told Campus Reform

“As we have seen in the past, misinformation is often used as a cover by social media giants for censoring right-leaning websites and content,” Reddy added. “We wish the Berkeley faculty members involved in this process well but would urge them not to recommend the adoption of any community standard that they would find unacceptable if applied to content that appeals to their political biases.”

Efros, Berkeley College Democrats, Cornell University, and the University of Maryland did not return requests for comment in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @eduneret

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