Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly resisted suggestions that his company is a media organization, despite the Pew Research Center's findings a year ago that 63 percent of users of both Facebook and Twitter said they get news from those sites.
The new features, rolled out to select United States users this week, add options for readers and third-party fact checkers to flag articles, tweak Facebook's algorithm and provide more restrictions on advertising.
Zuckerberg himself tried to reassure the public that the involvement of fact-checkers will not change Facebook's neutrality on politics, Forbes reports. "Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed".
One obvious danger of that approach is that Facebook's users end up reporting stories not along fact-based lines, but on ideological ones.
"On the buying side we've eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications", Mosseri says.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg initially appeared to downplay the fake news problem. The social network also will be working with fact-checking organisations Politfact, Snopes and FactCheck.org, as well as the American ABC News and the Associated Press to identify articles as fake. People who try to share stories that have been found false will also see an alert before they post. Those reports will then be handled by Facebook, who is partnering with a number of news organizations that will help to verify whether a story is indeed false or not.
"We believe in giving people a voice and that we can not become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully", Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management, said.
"To put this in perspective, if you combined the top stories from the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, they still had only 5% the viewership of an article from a fake news", he wrote in a blog post. But the key thing about Facebook - and this is true whether you're running a politics site out of Macedonia or whether you run a very large website in the U.S. - Facebook is the biggest driver of traffic to, you know, news websites in the world now.
Facebook has been at pains to note that fake news represents only a fraction of a percent of the viral videos, memes, and other forms of content that are seeded through its globally distributed network. It should be noted that even just 1 percent of Facebook users in the USA amounts to almost 2 million people.
In a study released Thursday, the Pew Research Center found that almost a quarter of Americans say they have shared a made-up news story, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Zuckerberg went on to outline plans to combat fake news. "We've found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it", wrote Mosseri, "that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way". These ideological echo chambers thrive on Facebook, where the news feed algorithm is created to surface the content most relevant and appealing to you. That is not Facebook's goal.
"We believe in giving people a voice and that we can not become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully", Mosseri wrote yesterday in a Facebook newsroom post.