Facebook rolls out plan to fight fake news

Mobile news app (Getty)
The stories that are disputed may also appear lower in the news feeds of users (Getty / file)

Facebook is rolling out a new update to address fake news, working closely with third-party fact-checking organisations to ensure posts can be quickly and clearly identified as fake.

The problem reached peak controversy during the US election campaign, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced shortly after that they would be making changes to crack down.

Mr Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page today that the update will "make spreading misinformation less profitable for spammers" and will "crack down on spammers who masquerade as well-known news organisations".

Users will be able to report and mark posts as fake, and if this is backed up by Facebook's fact checkers the post will be flagged as disputed, with a link to a corresponding article explaining why.

The stories that are disputed may also appear lower in the news feeds of users. When a user tries to share a disputed post, they will see an alert pop up before they can decide to share it.

Facebook is trying to take down the spammers making money from the fake posts, as once they have been disputed users will not be able to promote or turn posts into ads.

Dr Peter Thompson, senior media studies lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, told Newshub the problem of fake news on Facebook raises a number of issues for him.

It's important to consider how reliable a source of news Facebook is to begin with, Dr Thompson said, given that newsfeeds are curated based on the pages users have liked and who they're friends with.

He said Facebook is "the perfect petri dish for an echo chamber" and for people to only be seeing things that they agree with.

Dr Thompson hoped that the third-party fact checkers are reputable and independent, "people with justified authority and expertise" and would worry about them having vested political or economic interests.

He also said that the idea of fake news is complicated, and there's a difference between posts expressing values and opinions, journalists who have made genuine mistakes, and people who are "literally making up stories to suit their own agendas" or making "outlandish statements".

Mr Zuckerberg said because Facebook is a new platform for public discourse, they "have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed".


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