Being one of the biggest social media platform today, you can infer that news found on Facebook can greatly influence its users. The problem is, it’s too easy to post just about anything on Facebook. And with the rapid growth of satire and fake news sites that’s easily shareable, the spread of false news has become increasingly difficult to prevent.
Facebook has also been heavily blamed for the outcome of the recent elections in the USA. What with the spread of malicious news on the social media during the course of the campaign season, it was believed by many that the fake news influenced the decision of many voters. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, initially dismissed this issue saying that it was extremely unlikely that fake news impacted the results of the election which announced Donald Trump as the new POTUS.
Now, the big name in social media is taking a step up in order to combat the spread of malicious and fake news. Well, no, they aren’t exactly going to take down the fake news that’s posted. They are, however, going to flag the news with ‘Disputed’ labels in order to warn the readers that the particular post is a fake news. In a move originally promised by Facebook to be active last December, the social media site has teamed up with third party fact-checkers. The Poynter’s Fact-Checking Network will be determining if the news post is real or fake. This group is made up of Snopes, Politifact, ABC News, and FactCheck.org.
The verification of the news posts goes through a somewhat lengthy process. First, the fake news post should be reported by a certain number of people or be flagged by Facebook’s automated software. This particular post is then sent to the third-party fact-checkers such as Snopes and Politifact for review. If two or more of the third-party checkers mark it as fake, that’s when Facebook will apply the banner.
You’d probably notice that the process isn’t exactly time sensitive. Well it, really is not. Gizmodo recently reported that the news about Trump’s own Android phone being responsible for the spate of leaks was unlabeled for around five days. The news was from Seattle Tribune, which declares itself as a “news and entertainment satire web publication”, which pretty much means that anything published from this website is fake and satirical. The Trump Android phone story was out by February 26, Sunday. But it was only labeled bogus by Snopes on March 2, Thursday. And only by March 3, Friday, was Politifact able to take on it.
Seeing this sample from the Seattle Tribune, wouldn’t you think that Facebook should move faster in actions like this? Like, Seattle Tribune would obviously always post fake news as it’s a satire website, Facebook can clearly just block anything that comes from it. The thing though is, that would require Facebook to make calls on its own. And their ideology that’s they are ‘just a platform’ just won’t have it.
Prior to this third-party fact-checking feature, Facebook already released an initiative last year that allows users to mark or report a post as false news. After a person reports a certain post in their News Feed and selecting ‘I think this shouldn’t be on Facebook’, the next screen would show an option which says ‘It’s a false news story’.
Also, in an article by Recode last December, the social media giant was said to be in the process of ‘training’ its software to detect signs of news posts which might be bogus. Though the sign in which they might determine fake news seems surprising. Facebook says that stories people read, but decide not to share, might be the ones that are fake.
From a statement of Adam Mosseri, Facebook News Feed boss: “We’ve found that if reading an article makes people 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.”.
The problem, however, is that Facebook users find that fake news articles are the ones which are wildly popular and rampantly shared. So, we would probably have to wait and see how this ‘software training’ goes.
The social media giant is also reported to have said that they will cut off financial incentives for spammers who continue to post fake news to grab their share of the ad revenue. This is an additional action to prevent the spread of malicious and bogus news in the social media platform.
Another problem that lies unresolved now is that there are people who reject mainstream media and are still likely to believe a news post that adheres to what they want to believe in, and no label whether ‘disputed’ or ‘false’ is likely to change that.