Facebook has issued an update on the measures it is taking to address the fake news scandal of recent weeks. It said its efforts are focused on four areas: easier reporting; flagging stories as disputed; informed sharing; and disrupting financial incentives for spammers.
On the reporting front, Facebook is testing ways to make it easier to report a hoax if someone sees one on Facebook, which users can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post.
The company is also working with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. Facebook said it will use the reports from its community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will be flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why.
Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed. Facebook users can still share disputed stories, but they will see a warning that the story has been disputed as they share it, and once a story is flagged as disputed, it can’t be made into an ad and promoted.
The third measure will use the behaviour of the Facebook community as a flag that a story may be fake. Facebook said it has 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. So it’s 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.
Finally, Facebook is trying to remove the financial incentive behind many fake news stories, where spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads.
On the buying side it said it has eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, it is analysing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
Facebook’s update comes as a new study from Pew Research Center reveals that almost a quarter of Americans surveyed have shared fake news.
23 per cent of respondents to the Pew survey admitted to sharing fabricated political stories on social media, with 14 per cent of respondents admitting that they knew the news was fake when they shared it.