Published: Sat, December 17, 2016
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Facebook to introduce tools to combat fake news

They will soon start popping up across the social-media site for some users, thanks to a new set of features Facebook is testing to battle hoaxes and fake news online.

Last month, Facebook and Google both said they would cut off websites promoting fake news from their lucrative advertising networks, seeking to clamp down on "click farms" that make money when users click on sensational headlines. And there's no question that Facebook's moves will be questioned and attacked by those from various political persuasions, arguing that the third-party fact-checkers it is relying on are biased (an accusation that both Politifact and Snopes have faced already).

If, after being investigated, a story appears to be false, Facebook will flag it with a new status it calls "Disputed". The app pulls in news stories from content partners that users choose to follow, along with news stories viewed and shared by friends within the app, while cutting out all the memes and sponsored posts the Facebook News Feed gets filled up with.

On the buying side, Facebook has eliminated the ability for spammers to spoof domains and will analyze publishers' sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be needed.

Despite a damming Buzzfeed News analysis that tracked the flow of fake news originating on Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg originally shrugged off the problem.

A blog post by Adam Mosseri, VP, News Feed at Facebook, detailed the new ways the social media titan is fighting fake news. Those reports will then be handled by Facebook, who is partnering with a number of news organizations that will help to verify whether a story is indeed false or not.

Facebook has dismissed the notion that fake news shared on the social network swung the election results but has been stepping up its efforts to weed out the clearly false news.

Stories determined to be bogus could still be shared, "but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed", Mosseri said.

"We believe in giving people a voice and that we can not become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully", said Adam Mosseri, Facebook's vice president of the news feed, in a blog post. "We're a new kind of platform for public discourse - and that means we have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed". We're excited about this progress, but we know there's more to be done.

Separately on Thursday, a survey by the Pew Research Center showed almost two out of three U.S. adults (64 percent) believed fake news causes confusion about basic facts in current events.

Zuckerberg went on to outline plans to combat fake news. The company is even experimenting with monitoring how users interact with story to determine whether or not the story is legitimate: If people who read a certain story are much less likely to share it, Facebook says, that might be a clue that the story is misleading.

The amount of fake news on Facebook has apparently reached critical mass. A "disputed" label can be appealed directly to the fact-checking organization. That is not Facebook's goal. "With any changes we make, we must fight to give all people a voice and resist the path of becoming arbiters of truth ourselves", Zuckerberg wrote.

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