Facebook Attacks Fake News

In partnership with top third-party fact-checking organizations, Facebook is launching a full-frontal attack on so-called “fake news.”

Soon, if these partner organizations -- each of which is a signatory of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles -- identify a story circulating on Facebook as phony, it will be labeled as disputed.

Such stories will also be accompanied by links to corresponding articles, which clearly explain why they have been flagged.

Disputed stories will also appear lower in Facebook’s News Feed rankings and will lose their right to be featured in an ad or be promoted by a publisher.

Analysts on Thursday said Facebook has the right idea by going after publishers' ad revenue.

“The incentive for most fake news creators is financial rather than philosophical,” said Susan Bidel, an analyst at Forrester Research. “If there is no financial gain to be had from creating and circulating fake news, it will dry up and the digital ecosystem will be improved.”

Meanwhile, “It will still be possible to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share,” Adam Mosseri, VP of News Feed at Facebook, notes in a new blog post.

Facebook will rely on its community of users -- along with other “signals” -- to send suspect stories to fact-checking organizations.

Among other “signals,” the social giant believes it can identify fake news by tracking certain sharing and readership patterns.  

“We’ve 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,” according to Mosseri.

As such, “we’re 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,” Mosseri explained.

As Bidel suggested, Mosseri and his team have found that much of fake news is financially motivated.

“Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations ... They post hoaxes that get people to visit their sites, which are often mostly ads,” Mosseri notes.

Therefore, Facebook is taking several actions to reduce this financial incentive.

On the buy side, the company has eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which is expected to reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications.

On the publisher side, Mosseri and his team are currently analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.

Facing mounting criticism for failing to curb phony news, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently called for patience and understanding. “We take misinformation seriously,” Zuckerberg asserted in a blog post. “We've made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”

The young mogul said Facebook has historically relied on its community of users to point out inaccurate news content, but admitted that the task has become increasingly “complex, both technically and philosophically.”

“We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible,” Zuckerberg explained. “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content.

“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.” Further deflecting blame, Zuckerberg insisted the percentage of misinformation on Facebook remains “relatively small.”

Moving forward, areas of focus would include stronger detection measures, including better classification of “misinformation,” he said.

Following the presidential election, last month, Zuckerberg dismissed criticism that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump's victory. “Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, is a pretty crazy idea.”

4 comments about "Facebook Attacks Fake News".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 16, 2016 at 10:20 a.m.

    Snopes is guilty of sins of omission, that is, they don't report at all on authenticity questions that might prove damaging to their biases. For example, not too much detail about Benghazi and that ridiculous fake news story, carried by the major networks, that the attacks were precipitated by an amateur YouTube video posted by an American. Snopes reports on nearly every other aspect, especially when the fact-checking portrays Obama and Hillary in a favorable way. It may have been enough to prevent a surge by Romney in the waning weeks of the 2012 election.

  2. Tom Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, December 16, 2016 at 1:12 p.m.

    Yeah, I like Poynter's involvement, but think Snopes should be disengaged from this equation. They shade the truth, do the sins of omission thing, have an ideological bias. These guys were debunkers of Urban Myths--somehow they became the vanguard of truth on the internet? The bios of their writers are completely non-transparent and written completley tongue-in-cheek. It's weird that Snopes doesn't get called on its sh!t more by the so-called fake news crews criers. 

  3. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, December 16, 2016 at 3:47 p.m.

    I believe that publishers of fake news who do it solely for financial gain isn't the major problem.  Rather it's those who publish fake news for political gain. 

    Otherwise, we get the odd conspiracy theorists (hint: look up) who seem to be much more comfortable attacking every nuance of the fact-checkers, while completely ignoring - and hoping we ignore - the fakery that drives the "facts" being checked. 

    The good news is that absolutely nothing does a better job of outting the purveyors of these falsehoods than their own words; ... anyone who either defends propaganda, or attacks those whose job it is to uncover propaganda, goes right to the top of the red-flag list. 

  4. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network replied, December 16, 2016 at 3:49 p.m.

    Oops. Please make that "aren't" instead of "isn't" in the first sentence.

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