Facebook takes a new step at halting fake news and clickbait



The social media network, criticized for its role spreading misinformation during and after the U.S. presidential campaign, has been rolling out changes to its algorithm designed to reduce fake news in users’ Facebook News Feed. It’s added a “disputed” warning label to stories that tread fictitious waters, for instance.

The tools Facebook uses for fighting fake news about current events are similar to those used in combating clickbait, which amounts to a different type of fake news. Even though Facebook began targeting suspect clickbait headlines that withhold and exaggerate phrases in an update last year, clickbait continues to plague users.

In its new update, Facebook looks separately at whether a headline withholds or exaggerates when previously it identified those aspects together. Over a few months, Facebook looked at hundreds of thousands of headlines and categorized them as clickbait or not, then reviewed and validated them.

Examples of leading headlines that withhold information requiring readers to click to learn details included “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…” An example of a headline exaggerating details included, “WOW! Ginger tea is the secret to everlasting youth. You’ve GOT to see this!”

Another move to push clickbait posts lower in your News Feed: Previously, if a page was posting a lot of clickbait that whole page might see a slight decrease in its reach. Now Facebook’s system  should push an individual post with a clickbait headline further down.

Facebook has also begun testing its clickbait filters in other languages.

Another update last week reduced links to web pages with very little substance and “disruptive, shocking or malicious” advertisements, Facebook said.

A recent review by the British newspaper The Guardian suggests Facebook’s fight against fake news has a ways to go. Some stories debunked by Facebook’s fact-checkers could still be shared without the “disputed” tag, The Guardian found, and other posts gained traffic after getting the tag or were tagged long after they had gone viral.

In response, Facebook told The Guardianthat the “disputed” tags were just one part of its anti-fake news strategy. “There’s no silver bullet solution, which is why we’ve deployed a diverse, concerted and strategic plan,” the company said.

“We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said three months ago in a manifesto on how Facebook can assist in building and enriching the global community. “We’ve made progress fighting hoaxes the way we fight spam, but we have more work to do.”


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