Facebook will stop displaying red flags next to factually inaccurate articles as it believes doing so is an ineffective way to combat misinformation, the social media giant said Wednesday. Instead of literally flagging such articles as disputed, the company has now implemented a new system that will show work debunking fake news under a "Related Articles" section beneath the original story. Such writing and reporting will usually be authored by fact-checkers who were tasked with investigating the credibility of any given story by Facebook after its machine learning technologies determined it might be false.
The move comes following a nine-month period of Facebook flagging fake news, with the company concluding that displaying such strong images like red flags near articles actually has the potential to entrench someone's factually inaccurate beliefs. Displaying articles disproving such stories in the form of additional context is a more effective way to combat misinformation, Facebook says, citing unspecified academic research. The firm also started a project seeking to explore the manner in which people estimate the accuracy of information they receive from their news sources, with the initiative being primarily aimed at allowing it to better measure its success in combating misinformation and isn't expected to result in any user-facing changes in the near term.
The development corresponds with recent reports that Facebook's existing efforts to fight fake news are largely ineffective and a change of direction may be needed, though the company remains adamant it's making significant progress and expects to continue doing so going forward. Facebook says the new mechanism is able to reduce the distribution of fake news by approximately 80 percent after such stories are positively identified but the current process still takes three days on average, whereas the majority of impressions generated by articles spreading misinformation happen beforehand. The Menlo Park, California-based Internet giant is presently working to speed up that process but has yet to provide more details on its efforts to do so. Facebook has been facing significant public pressure to combat fake news following the 2016 presidential election in the United States and concerns about the role played by its social network in the widely reported Russian misinformation campaign seeking to meddle in the U.S. democratic process.