Facebook rolls out plan to curb fake news
Mark Zuckerberg is rolling out strategies to curb Facebook fake news. This comes after pressure, backlash, and allegations that the giant tech firm has not done enough to deal with the problem.
Fake news stories deluged the platform in 2016 with the most notable being news related to the 2016 US presidential election. It has been alleged that Facebook played a role in Donald Trump’s victory. Mark Zuckerberg downplayed such claims despite President Trump saying explicitly that Facebook played an important role in his victory. There were also many fabricated hoaxes whose objective was to appeal to conservatives.
There are numerous Facebook fake news examples including the allegation that Denzel Washington has publicly backed Donald Trump, Pope Francis had endorsed Trump, and that a federal investigator who has been investigating Hilary Clinton had been found dead. These are just but a few examples of stories that impelled people to make a connection between Facebook fake news and the election outcome.
The decision to introduce new tools comes after months of pressure from various parties. These tools are meant to stop news stories from spreading. Facebook has stressed that the new features will be part of an ongoing process to refine methods of dealing with fake news.
The new tools will enable users to flag fake articles that appear in their news feed. They can flag news as a hoax. This will be achieved through collaboration with organizations such as ABC News and Associated Press. Also, the new tools will help improve sharing analytics, tackling spammers, and ensure that users in the same region see the same topics. Earlier, the list of trending topics was personalized based on users’ interests but this will no longer be the case.
Currently, the giant firm is updating its “trending” feature. Previously, the trending section was based on user engagement and it highlighted popular stories and topics. The changes will include identification of the publisher below each topic. Facebook will also seek to identify trending topics and establish which publishers are discussing such topic. This, according to Facebook, will help identify and reflect real world news events covered by authentic news outlets. These changes will be rolled out in various parts of the world successively.
When discussing how the upgrade will help in dealing with fake news and hoaxes, Facebook vice president, Will Cathcart, said that the updated system would identify groups of articles shared on its platform instead of solely banking on mentions.
Facebook says that if and when news are flagged as hoaxes or disputed and an article explaining why is attached, they may appear lower in the news feed. Flagged stories cannot be promoted.
In 2016, Facebook introduced an anti-clickbait algorithm. This involved demoting articles that contained certain headlines. Clickbait headlines aim to lure readers into clicking article titles that withhold important information or exaggerate leading to over expectations. An example is: “She put toothpaste in a blackhead before going to bed and what happened next was shocking.” This is just one example of millions of Facebook fake news articles that the platform has accommodated over the past.
Zuckerberg has assured Facebook users that they will soon be able to flag Facebook fake news and hoaxes. He added that one of the tech giant’s goals is to show people useful and valuable content.
Skeptics have alleged that Facebook cannot stop fake news and hoaxes since it cannot possibly monitor and confirm the authenticity of all news articles. They add that leaders should not see Facebook’s efforts as a respite as they will continue to be victims of fake news.
The process of trying to deal with the Facebook fake news problem and hoaxes comes at a time when a big percentage of Facebook users admit to depending on Facebook for news. The giant social media company hopes that the updates will ensure that its users consume quality news. We can only hope that a refined Facebook fake news detector will be introduced to curb the problem once and for all.