Facebook is providing more vigilant policing of content and a media campaign to educate the public about fake news.
The latter includes full-page ads in the print editions of a number of big British newspapers, published by Facebook and Full Fact, a fact-checking company, providing a list of 10 tips and red flags for identifying fake news on Facebook and elsewhere.
The tips include advice to “Look closely at the URL,” as fake news sites often use “lookalike” URLs with minor changes to authentic news sources, and “Watch for unusual formatting,” including misspellings or awkward layouts.
Aside from these technical pointers, Facebook’s advice to readers sounds rather like the basic rules for responsible news consumption that were once taught in civics class. For example, the ad urges readers to “Check the evidence,” noting, “Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story. It also suggests, “Look at other reports,” because, “If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false.”
Finally, lest the preceding nine points fail to get the message across, No. 10 is admirably direct: “Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.”
Fake news is just one of a number of overlapping controversies Facebook must contend with in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
Last week, a UK parliamentary committee blasted social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, for not doing enough to combat banned content, including hate speech, terrorist propaganda and material depicting child abuse including child pornography.
The report concluded: “The biggest and richest social media companies are shamefully far from taking sufficient action to tackle illegal and dangerous content, to implement proper community standards or to keep their users safe. Given their immense size, resources and global reach, it is completely irresponsible of them to fail to abide by the law, and to keep their users and others safe.”Lawmakers in Germany have also called on Facebook and other big platforms to do more to combat fake news and hate speech as that country prepares for parliamentary elections on Sept. 24.
In April, German cabinet ministers approved a plan that would make social-media companies liable for fines of up to €50 million, or $53.3 million, if they fail to remove certain kinds of illegal content within 24 hours of being notified.