Report: Facebook's Anti-Fake News Efforts Still Ineffective

Facebook's efforts to combat the spread of factually inaccurate, misleading, and outright false information on its network remain relatively ineffective, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing individuals familiar with the company's process of screening suspicious online stories that may be categorized under the "fake news" label. Robust fact-checking initiatives have been Facebook's main tool for fighting false articles shared on its platform so far, with the Menlo Park, California-based company outsourcing a significant portion of related operations in order to avoid bias accusations, insiders claim, adding that the program itself is still far from effective as it's only able to screen a relatively small portion of suspicious stories found on Facebook.

One of the issues inhibiting the effectiveness of the current platform is its scope or lack of thereof; sources involved in the screening process cited by Bloomberg claim that the influx of likely false news stories is overwhelming, suggesting that Facebook needs more staff to combat the dissemination of inaccurate information in this manner. The actual procedure also doesn't allow for debunking the same story covered by multiple outlets at once; instead, it requires fact-checkers to prove it false every single time it's picked up by a new publication, the report indicates. Apart from marking stories as true or false, fact-checkers are also able to attach a "not disputed" label to them using the company's proprietary framework and must produce an in-depth explanation for all of their ratings. The entire procedure appears to be cumbersome and results in a neverending list of stories that must be fact-checked which only gets bigger, with the outsourced workforce usually only getting to review stories that have already been circulated online in an extensive manner, sources suggested, adding that most stories proven as false are only labeled after 72 hours or more at which point the damage has already been done, and many more evade scrutiny entirely.

Facebook is ultimately seeking to use the data gathered from its manual fact-checking efforts to improve its content algorithms, though some industry watchers remain skeptical about the company's ability to deliver a solution capable of automatically flagging fake news in a reasonably accurate manner, especially in the near term. Its outsourced operations will continue into 2018 as Facebook is reportedly planning to extend some of its contracts with fact-checkers worth up to $100,000 annually, though a number of organizations are also said to be assisting the social media giant free of charge.

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