Facebook Adds Option To Report Bogus News

John Lister's picture

Facebook is to implement a new feature to help cut down on the number of fake news stories that appear on the site, but says 'genuine parodies' will be unaffected. The report system won't lead to stories being removed from Facebook altogether; instead, it will make them less likely to appear on user newsfeeds.

Links to news stories are becoming increasingly important on Facebook. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that 30 percent of Americans say they get some of their daily news from Facebook, which is more than three times the figure for any other site. (Source: pewresearch.org)

Indeed, social sites help spread news very quickly. If a particular user finds an interesting story, it's also very likely that their online friends who have common interests and political views will also find it interesting.

Clickbait Sites The Main Target

An example of such news stories are those published by website The Onion. While this can occasionally cause confusion, Facebook says it doesn't want to crack down on such stories, though last year it began experimenting with a system that labels such stories as satire.

Instead, Facebook says it wants to crack down on what it labels irresponsible "clickbait" sites. These are sites that make up stories that are completely false but are carefully formulated to be believable, particularly if they fit into the stereotypes and prejudices of some users.

A recent example involved claims that Saved By The Bell actor Dustin Diamond (also known as "Screech") had been charged with second-degree murder following a bar room brawl. While Diamond had indeed been arrested over an incident, nobody involved had died, and the arrest dealt only with claims of illegal knife possession.

Such sites are designed to find a sweet spot of being plausible but also shocking, encouraging users to visit to find out more, in turn boosting ad revenue.

'Fake Or Deceitful' Sites To Be Downgraded

Facebook already has a report option for objecting to posts and links to pornographic material, distasteful content, and sites promoting violence. It's adding a new option which will read "It's a false news story. Examples: purposefully fake or deceitful news, a hoax disproved by a reputable source."

Those links which receive a lot of reports will be downgraded in Facebook's algorithm for deciding which posts appear prominently in the "news feed" option that orders posts by perceived priority. It won't affect those users who select the "most recent" option that shows all posts in chronological order.

While posts reported as fake won't be deleted completely, they may be accompanied by a disclaimer, reading: "Many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information." (Source: wired.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think Facebook is right to add this option to its reporting system? Should Facebook completely remove links to articles that are clearly false and potentially libelous? Is there a risk of people maliciously reporting true stories as false because the story doesn't match their political views?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Any time I see clickbait and fake news stories on the Internet (in general), I cringe. It's about time Facebook is doing something to help deter the spread of sites that engage in deceptive practices for the sake of making a quick buck. Personally, I think they should take it a step further and blacklist repeat offenders for a set period of time. Hit em' where it counts - right in the wallet!

LouisianaJoe's picture

It will be interesting to see if Facebook applies a "Political" filter to stories.