Facebook Tests Tools to Fight Fake News

John Lister's picture

Facebook is testing tools to make it easier to combat "fake news" posted to the site. It's using Germany as a test bed for the tools, which will include making it harder for scammers to make money from false stories.

The term "fake news" came to prominence last year and has been applied to all sorts of types of writing, including opinionated pieces and legitimate articles with unintended factual errors. However, what Facebook is targeting is material that has the appearance of legitimate news reporting but is largely completely fictional and designed either to spread misinformation or to profit from people clicking through to read the eye-catching "report."

Fact Checkers to Review Links

One of the changes being tested is to make it easier to report a post as containing false information. This will apply mainly to posts that link to an external website, such as links to an article.

Another tactic will be hiring independent fact checkers to verify some of the stories which are being linked to most often. If they find a story is not reputable, it will be less likely to appear high up in people's news feeds and the link will carry a warning that the content is "disputed." However, the link will still remain active.

The final tactic is a crackdown on Facebook advertising by sites that carry false material, but mimic the style and appearance of a well-known legitimate sites. Users may be more likely to share and follow links to such posts and sites because they falsely appear to be from reputable sources. The theory is that making it harder for such sites to get traffic by advertising on Facebook, they'll have less incentive to create fake news. (Source: techcrunch.com)

German Elections Prompt Bogus News Fears

Normally when Facebook tries out new policies and tools in a country it is for demographic reasons. For example, it often runs trials in Ireland or Spain because both countries are big enough for a controlled experiment and have user bases who generally have a low proportion of Facebook friends in other countries, meaning there's less confusion over inconsistencies on the way the site works.

In this case, current affairs is the reason for testing the tools in Germany. The country has national elections this year and some fear bogus news stories might be used as a tactic to try to misinform and sway voters. (Source: ft.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Should Facebook crack down on bogus news links or leave it entirely to users to decide what to follow and share? Can automated tools ever be a reliable way of finding "fake news"? If the judgment relies on human assessment, can there ever be enough staff to moderate such a busy site?

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Dennis Faas's picture

It's about time! Half of the information on Facebook and other social media sites (and the Internet in general) is completely fake - especially advertisements. Those fake ads really boil my blood, yet droves of people are stupid enough to click on them and make the advertiser (Facebook, etc) a ton of money.

The truth is however, fake news and fake ads make more money than real news and real product advertising because 99.99% of the fake stuff uses headlines that claim something which is too good to be true, which then entices people to follow through with a click. I hope Facebook's experiment turns out to be fruitful - I would love to be able to down-vote ads and stories that are fake.

sirpaultoo's picture

I'm intrigued by this phenomenon. Fake news is coming across as a new trend when, in actuality, it has been around since about 500BC under the name 'propaganda' - information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
A much more polite term is called 'political advertising'.

Sparkydog's picture

And, speaking of "fake news" and propaganda, who appointed a social media site, full of fake ads, to battle "fake news" for us?
Who will watch the watchmen?

norascats's picture

Throughout time people with new ideas have been ridiculed until their ideas were proven.
Propagandists have always tried to control the information stream. Funny how this topic becomes prominent when the least honest, least qualified President ever is about to take office.
We need freedom of information. We then need to exercise our brains to separate the kernel of truth from the chaff.
Now, anything that will get rid of the rampant drug ads on TV would help immensely. And as far as on line ads go, why do you think I use an ad blocker?