Following the surprising result of this year's US presidential election, we've witnessed a lot of accusations and finger-pointing in the mediascape regarding fake news and factually inaccurate stories which went viral and allegedly influenced the outcome of the election. Now, while Mark Zuckerberg initially said it's "pretty crazy" to even suggest something like that could have happened, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai wasn't as dismissive when BBC asked him whether Google could have done a better job at combating fake news in 2016. So, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, Facebook just announced a new initiative dedicated to fighting online hoaxes and fakes news on the Internet.
As Adam Mosseri, the Vice President of Facebook's News Feed Division explained in a blog post published yesterday, the Menlo Park-based social media giant is now committed to doing whatever it can to stop the dissemination of factually inaccurate information on the World Wide Web. With that in mind, Facebook just started rolling out new tools designed to help people report and analyze suspicious stories. Now, as this is a rather sensitive issue, Facebook decided to approach it in a careful manner. So, for starters, the company will focus on suppressing "the worst of the worst," i.e. clearly fake stories created and spread my malicious individuals and spammers who are looking to make a profit from disseminating false information. In addition to the Facebook community, this initiative also relies on the help from third-party organizations dedicated to fact-checking news sources.
More specifically, Facebook will soon start allowing users to report fake news stories with just a few taps, by clicking on the standard Report option in the upper-right corner of any post. Furthermore, the social media giant is also rolling out a feature for flagging stories as disputed. This functionality will rely on reports from organizations that signed the Poynter's International Fact Checking Code of Principles, as well as reports from Facebook users. Disputed stories won't be completely censored from Facebook, but they could appear lower in the news feed. When users attempt to share such stories, Facebook will let them know that they have already been disputed by independent organizations, though it won't stop them from sharing them. Apart from that, Facebook may also start penalizing articles with a low click-to-share ratio. Namely, if users read an article and aren't inclined to share it, Facebook believes such behavior may indicate that the article misled users in some way, which is why it will inspect such content more carefully from now on.
Last but not least, the social media giant also eliminated the ability for spammers to spoof domains, which means that as of now, Facebook users cannot camouflage their fake news stories as something coming from legitimate publications. According to Mosseri, this is just the beginning of Facebook's anti-fake news initiative. You can see first screenshots of these new tools in the gallery below.