March 6, 2017

Facebook rolls out first Fake News fighting tools

In response to the many shady articles posing as journalism that proliferated across Facebook last year, the social media giant has presented a new feature that will mark suspicious-looking shared articles.

While the system still has serious issues, the rollout indicates Facebook is least attempting to do something regarding the issue of "fake news."

Facebook fake news tool image

This is what Facebook's new tool looks like in practice. (Credit: Anna Merlan)

In December, Facebook said it would be partnering with third-party fact checkers to identify fake news being shared by its users. Those partners have been identified as Snopes, the Associated Press, ABC News, Politifact, and FactCheck.org.

Facebook had been singled out as a platform that supported the spread of fake news designed to malign candidates in the recent US presidential election, an assertion that politicians from both parties have used to make political points. In January, Facebook rolled out tools to handle fake news in Germany, as that country prepares for its national election.

The Start of a Long Battle

According to reports, the first visible signs of Facebook's US campaign against fake news appeared last Friday. The new system flags duplicitous articles with a "disputed" label that lists fact checking organizations who challenge the truth behind the article.

The sequence for labeling an article with the "disputed" tag starts when users submit reports concerning the story, or if Facebook’s automated software flags the article. Facebook will then send the article to its fact checkers. When two or more of the organizations decide the story is fake news, the "disputed" label will be connected to it.

Flagging fake news on Facebook as disputed articles will ideally drive users to be more diligent and check the content itself and its source before sharing. The added scrutiny that will go along with the "disputed" label could make users more conscious of which news articles are phony and which are legitimate.

However, such a tagging system on Facebook will probably not fix the problem completely. To start with, using a "disputed" label rather than a clearer "fake" label could make users think the article is only generating debate, and not factually inaccurate.

Also, the time that it requires to put on the label currently appears to be several days, which is more than enough time for an article to be shared by millions and have a massive impact on public opinion.

Ideally, Facebook will be capable of enhancing its system soon so that it will have a greater influence on preventing fake news in the platform.


Image credit: NurPhoto