Facebook launches tool to help users spot false news

Randall Craig
April 7, 2017

This week, users in 14 countries, including the US, will see an alert above the News Feed several times over the next few days that links them to Facebook's Help Center where they can read "Tips to Spot False News".

Users will be told to check the web address of a site posting a story, investigating the source and to look for other reports on the same topic as part of the new list of tips.

Tips to spot false news include looking closely at website addresses to see if they are trying to spoof real news sites, and checking websites' "about" sections for more information.

Adam Mosseri, vice president of news feed, said: "We think these tips will help people become more discerning readers, which is critically important as we're moving to a world where people need to be more sceptical about what they read to make sure they are not misled or lied to".

The social network has announced a partnership with MediaSmarts in hopes of helping users spot false news.

Today Facebook begins fighting misinformation with news literacy education, in addition to product features.

In the U.S., Facebook uses Snopes and PolitiFact, fact-checking organizations that are part of the Poynter International Fact-Checking Network, to help viewers sift through news stories. Many false news stories mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. The U.S. presidential campaign helped bring the problem to light, as articles with false information were being highlighted as featured articles by way of computerized algorithms due to the high volume of people sharing them. But supermarket tabloids peddling stories about aliens and celebrity miracles are less insidious than, say, "Pizzagate", a false Internet rumor that led a gunman to fire an assault weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December. "Facebook was always very interested [in] technology but not the social and civic implications of technology". While they are pressing Facebook to take more responsibility for the spread of disinformation, that also raises questions whether Facebook should become an arbiter of truth.

Facebook has also launched a "journalism project" that aims to support the news ecosystem. This is apparent as the sites often flip-flop around opposing political candidates, for example. It's the latest in a series of efforts by Facebook to work with reporters and news organizations to improve the distribution of information on its platform.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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