Facebook Ditches Another Fake News-Fighting Initiative

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Facebook announced Wednesday that it is ditching one of its initiatives meant to combat “fake news” on the platform while pushing full steam ahead on another.

The tech company is jettisoning its “Disputed Flags” program which instituted indicator warnings for potentially fraudulent or misleading information in certain articles seen on the trending news sidebar or users’ news feeds.

“Academic research on correcting misinformation has shown that putting a strong image, like a red flag, next to an article may actually entrench deeply held beliefs – the opposite effect to what we intended,” Tessa Lyons, product manager at Facebook, wrote in a company blog post.

Instead of the labeling, Facebook will use its formerly preliminary “Related Articles” initiative to reduce the amount of misinformation on the platform, which is “simply designed to give more context, which our research has shown is a more effective way to help people get to the facts,” according to Lyons.

“Indeed, we’ve found that when we show Related Articles next to a false news story, it leads to fewer shares than when the Disputed Flag is shown.”

Adding extra context through a diversity of view points from presumably a variety of publications (ideally across the political spectrum) seems to a be a better way of ensuring users have the most accurate information. In fact, it could take a review or reading of multiple articles on the same story to formulate the most legitimate perspective.

Facebook is also continuing to identify and demote false news through both internal and external fact-checkers, some of which, though, have dubiously impartial fact-checking capabilities(RELATED: Snopes Deliberately Omits Key Details To Protect Kerry’s State Dept.)

Nevertheless, this overall goal of demoting misleading or fraudulent news “destroys the economic incentives spammers and troll farms have to generate these articles in the first place,” according to Lyons.

The “Disputed Flags” program isn’t the first experiment to apparently go wrong for Facebook. The social media company turned tech conglomerate abandoned a pilot test in November in which it promoted comments mentioning “fake news” on certain posts to the top, making such virtual remarks way more likely to be viewed by others.

Many users hated the initiative because a large amount of posts are centered around political issues — whether its from a news organization or an old acquaintance from high school — and often causes strife and bickering in this hyper-polarized political climate. One of the newer favorite tactics in arguments both online and in-person is shouting “fake news,” so a lot of content’s artificially top comment would then prominently feature that trite criticism.


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Eric Lieberman