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December 16, 2016

Facebook Unveils Plan to Tackle Fake News

Facebook is true to its word. The social networking firm today announced a number of updates to its News Feed to deal with phony news stories and other hoaxes.

The updates, which are still in the testing phase and are just beginning to roll out, make the reporting of hoaxes and the flagging of stories as disputed easier. Facebook is also working to reduce the financial incentives spammers have for spreading hoaxes and fake news.

The updates — which Facebook has promised to “learn from” and “iterate and extend” over time —  come about a month after CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised Facebook would address the ever-growing fake news problem on the social network.

“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,”  News Feed vice-president Adam Mosseri said in a blog post. “We’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.”

sharing-disputed-story1Here is how the update breaks down:

1. Easier Reporting

Facebook is testing some new methods that make it easier to report a hoax. To make a report, the user simply clicks the upper right hand corner of a post.

2. Flagging Stories as Disputed
Facebook is working with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. Reports from Facebook users combined with other signals send suspicious stories to these organizations. Articles that the fact checking organizations deem to be fake will be flagged as disputed along with a link to the corresponding article to explain why.

“We’ve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way,” Mosseri said. “We’re going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it.”

This means disputed stories are likely to appear lower in the News Feed. While such articles can still be shared, they will come with a warning that they have been disputed. Also, when an article is flagged, it can no longer be made into an ad for promotion.

3. Disrupting Financial Incentives for Spammers
The lion’s share of fake news is financially motivated, according to Facebook’s findings. Spammers pretend to be prominent news organizations and then post hoaxes to lure people to their sites. To remove the incentive, Facebook is eliminating the ability to spoof domains, meaning spammers cannot hide what they are. Facebook is also analyzing publisher sites to determine “where policy enforcement actions might be necessary,” Mosseri said.

“It’s important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful,” he added. “We’re excited about this progress, but we know there’s more to be done. We’re going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right.”


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.