On Thursday, Facebook announced a couple of fixes that are designed to start minimizing the influence and spread of hoaxes and fake news on the platform. Facebook’s Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management (and in charge of Facebook’s News Feed) characterized them as “first steps.”
Facebook said it will launch a pilot program aimed to make it easier for users to flag potential hoaxes, which will then be evaluated by third-party groups from Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network.
Obviously false stories will then see a little note when viewing or sharing a debunked story alerting them about it.
When it comes to hoax problems, Facebook has long struggled to balance its claim to neutrality with its growing influence over the information — and news — we see. Below is Facebook’s official announcement; we will be annotating it to draw out some of the details below. You can also annotate with us! Just highlight the text you wish to annotate and wait for the Genius box to come up. We’re moderating, so please be appropriate.
News Feed FYI: Addressing Hoaxes and Fake News
By Adam Mosseri, VP, News Feed
A few weeks ago, we previewed some of the things we’re working on to address the issue of fake news and hoaxes. We’re committed to doing our part and today we’d like to share some updates we’re testing and starting to roll out.
We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully. We’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.
The work falls into the following four areas. These are just some of the first steps we’re taking to improve the experience for people on Facebook. We’ll learn from these tests, and iterate and extend them over time.
We’re testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. We’ve relied heavily on our community for help on this issue, and this can help us detect more fake news.
Flagging Stories as Disputed
We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share. We’ve started a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.
It will still be possible to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share.
Once a story is flagged, it can’t be made into an ad and promoted, either.
We’re always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. 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. 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.
Disrupting Financial Incentives for Spammers
We’ve found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads. So we’re doing several things to reduce the financial incentives. On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
It’s important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful. We’re excited about this progress, but we know there’s more to be done. We’re going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right.