Microsoft hints that labeling fake news as “false” could be misinterpreted as censorship

In the run-up to the US election, Microsoft is taking a fundamentally different approach to combating fake news. The company appears to be very reluctant to label fake news as “false” as it could be misinterpreted as excessive censorship. Instead of hunting down and labeling content as knowingly false and misleading, Microsoft can expose customers and agencies involved in creating and spreading propaganda.

Most of the tech giants operating in the US are proceeding cautiously and avoiding the problems associated with the expected spate of disinformation campaigns. Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have already faced strong backlash for their methods of flagging and removing misleading content. Flagging and deleting inaccurate and misleading posts has become a hotly debated political issue.

Given the potential backlash, Microsoft is taking a different approach than other tech companies, president Brad Smith hinted.

I don’t think people want governments to tell them what’s true and what’s false. And I don’t think they’re really interested in tech companies letting them know.

For now, Microsoft is focused on tracking down disinformation campaigns targeting private and public sector customers and making them public. By the way, the company prefers to call fake news “operations of influence.” Speaking about Microsoft’s approach, Tom Burt, corporate vice president of security and customer trust, said:

We will explore how we can do this in the context of influence operations. It turns out that if you tell people what’s going on, that knowledge inspires both action and discussion about the steps that world governments should take to address these problems.

Microsoft has recently invested in information operations analytics and tools to track advocacy campaigns. These groups claim that, working alongside the company’s internal cybersecurity teams, they have thwarted suspected Russian, Iranian, Chinese and North Korean government hackers. Microsoft could take a similar approach in dealing with fake news and disinformation campaigns.

Source: Bloomberg.

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