Facebook Reduces News Feed 'Hoaxes'

Don’t want hear about creative ways to recharge your iPhone (like throwing it in the microwave), or breaking news about “Obamacare” bankrupting America? Then you’ll appreciate Facebook’s latest efforts to clean up its News Feed, and cut down on fake news stories.

“We’ve heard from people that they want to see fewer stories that are hoaxes or misleading news,” Erich Owens, a software engineer, and Udi Weinsberg, a research scientist at the social giant, explain in a co-authored blog post.

The latest News Feed tweak is intended to reduce the spread of posts that people have reported as “hoaxes.” It adds an annotation to posts that have received many such reports. Facebook defines hoaxes as a form of News Feed “spam,” including scams — “Click here to win a lifetime supply of coffee” — or deliberately false or misleading news stories: “Man sees dinosaur on hike in Utah.”

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Analysts on Tuesday called the changes minor. "It's just a light cleanup of what goes into the [News] feed," said Nate Elliott, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Facebook says it will not be removing stories that are reported as false, nor will it be reviewing content for accuracy.

In their blog post, Owens and Weinsberg promise that the vast majority of publishers on Facebook will not be impacted by this latest update. Yet “a small set of publishers who are frequently posting hoaxes and scams will see their distribution decrease.”

National Report and The Daily Currant are among those publishers that appear to put out hoax news stories simply for the sake of Web traffic.

To the chagrin of marketers everywhere, Facebook has made it a common practice to adjust in News Feed algorithm. For example, the social giant recently began giving greater consideration to timeliness and activity-based relevancy. Following those changes, users were more likely to see “trending” stories in their News Feed, but only after a “friend” expresses interest in such a story.

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