Facebook unveils new features to fight fake news

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Facebook is rolling out new features to combat fake news on its platform, including flagging disputed stories, following a wave of criticism at the social media giant.

The new tools include a streamlined reporting process to identify fake news, flagging those stories, improved sharing analytics and steps to tackle spammers.

The changes were introduced in a blog post Thursday by Facebook vice president of product management Adam Mosseri.


“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” Mosseri wrote.

“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.”

Under the changes, users will now have an option to report news stories they believe are fake by checking a box.

But the company is not just relying on crowdsourcing efforts. Mosseri said Facebook would also work with third-party fact checking organizations that are part of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network to vet stories.

If a story is determined to be fake by those groups, it will be flagged as disputed on Facebook, with a linking explaining why.

These stories will also be pushed to a lower spot on users’ newsfeeds. Users who share such stories will also get a message that “fact checkers disputed its accuracy.” These posts cannot become ads or promoted posts either.

Facebook won’t only rely on manual options to spot fake news. Mosseri said the company will test algorithms to determine if readers are less likely to share a story after reading it. That could be a signal that a story is fake.

The changes come amid a heated debate over the role of fake news stories in the 2016 presidential election. Some false stories even trended on Facebook, leading to criticism that the company was not doing enough to crack down.

The company, though, has downplayed suggestions that fake news stories swung the election to Donald Trump, but had vowed to look at changes.

“There have been claims that it swayed the election, and we don’t think it swayed the election,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said earlier this month.

“But we take that responsibility really seriously. And we’re looking at things, like working with third parties, helping to label false news, doing the things we can do to make it clearer what’s a hoax on Facebook,” she vowed.

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