by Joseph Jankowski
After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denounced the idea that fake news influenced the U.S. election as “a pretty crazy idea,” the social network has decided to fold under the pressure of current media narratives and will take measures to censor what is labeled “fake news” on users news feeds.
Facebook is partnering with numerous media organizations, including Snopes and ABC News, that make up part of an international fact-checking network led by Poynter, a nonprofit school for journalism located in St. Petersburg, Florida, reports Business Insider.
The social network will make it easier for its users to report what they deem as “fake news” and will launch this ability to a small percentage of its users in the U.S. for testing.
A Facebook representative told Business Insider that the social network would also use algorithms that detect whether a story that appears fake is going viral, to determine whether it should label the story as fake and bury it in people’s feeds.
“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” Facebook News Feed chief Adam Mosseri said in a blog post on Thursday. “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.”
Reporting a story believed to be false or from a fraudulent source will be as easy as clicking the upper right hand corner of a post and selecting the “It’s a fake news story” option.
Once users label a news story as fake they will be able to “mark the post as fake news,” message their friend who posted the material and let them know that they believe the information posted is not real, or block that friend altogether.
The stories deemed fake by Facebook users will then be sent over for review by the signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles that have now partnered with the company.
“We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations,” Adam Mosseri wrote on Thursday.
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, according to Mosseri.
Facebook will also fight these “fake news” organizations from bringing in ad venue by eliminating “the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications.” The company will also analyze publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
The “fake news” hysteria began promptly after the Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election with some claiming that Google and Facebook were a large help in the spread of misinformation that influenced the outcome on Nov. 8.
“There’s a profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way that they did is because they saw some fake news,” Zuckerberg said last month when he was first pressed on the issue.
At the time, Zuckerburg admitted that his team studied fake news and found it’s was a “very small volume” of the content on Facebook.
Outlets like The Washington Post pointed to an instance where google’s algorithm allowed a false report of the election outcome to rise to the top of its search results as a reason why these tech companies need to take new measures to combat “fake news.”
What then followed was a series of blacklists to circulate the mainstream media that included sources of alternative news who are usually critical of government and have large enough audiences to compete with the old traditional media on the web.
The first list came from a liberal female studies professor named Melissa Zimdars and included conservative and libertarian websites like Infowars, Breitbart, Activist Post and World Net Daily.
The second list came to light when The Washington Post highlighted a hit list put together by an unknown organization that operates anonymously called PropOrNot (Propaganda or Not). PropOrNot’s list included many of the websites listed by Zimdar but went further to label them as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”
WaPo eventually came under enough pressure by the alternative media to retract their claims that the shadowy PropOrNot organization was a legitimate source to cite and issued an editor’s note saying they did not “vouch for the validity” of the hit list.
With the “fake news” narrative targeting alternative news sites and the fact that some 62% of Americans now get their news from social media, some may look at this latest move by Facebook as a way to censor those organizations and outlets that do not toe the establishment line.
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