Facebook has been under much scrutiny recently for it’s lack of participation in cracking down on ‘Fake News’. Fake news are news stories and articles that are written and shared solely to drive traffic to a webpage. These stories rarely contain any truth and are aimed at generating either ad revenue or spreading misinformation.
These types of Fake News articles became a hot-button topic following the US election. In recent weeks however it has also garnered more attention as it has became clear similar tactics are being used in the German election. Although there have been studies that suggest these news articles ‘did not have a significant impact on US elections’ they are still seen as a significant concern. Tech companies have a responsibility to prevent the dissemination of misinformation and Facebook is no different.
Facebook has begun prompting millions of its users in over 14 countries to read their guideline on how best to spot fake news. These guidelines are designed to point out differentiating features that should help it’s users be able to identify legitimate news stories from false ones. To calm some of the frustrations in Germany, Facebook will include a “Disputed” tag on posts. These disputed tags aim to help voters identify potentially false news stories.
The list includes:
- Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
- Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
- Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
- Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
Read the rest of Facebook’s guidelines for spotting fake news stories
Facebook battles fake news in other ways too. Mark Zuckerberg has stated that “fake news will go the way of clickbait”. That is to say they will make it more and more difficult for news they deem as fake to gain any reach, impressions, or shares. The harder it is for these types of news stories to gain traction the less prevalent they will become simply because they will no longer be economically viable.
Facebook is focusing on cracking down on false news stories in 3 main categories:
- disrupting economic incentives because most false news is financially motivated
- Facebook has been removing false news publications from their ad networks depriving them of revenue – they aim to continue this work.
- building new products to curb the spread of false news
- Facebook is investing in changing its ranking systems, enforcing advertising and promotion policies, as well as increased reporting options for false news.
- helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.
- Lastly Facebook says it will work to educate its users and teach them how to spot information that is false.