Facebook starts taking steps to fight the fake news menace
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New Delhi: Facebook Inc. has attracted much criticism for hosting fake news in the recent past, but the social media giant is finally pushing back.
For Campbell Brown, who joined Facebook in January as head of news partnerships, the mandate is clear: Help reduce fake news on the platform.
Brown, a former television anchor with NBC News and CNN met Indian publishers in New Delhi on Thursday, discussing the company’s initiatives to fight the menace.
“False news is not a Facebook problem, it is a societal problem, there are so many different stakeholders but we at Facebook want to reduce false news on the platform and provide authentic content,” said Brown.
Broadly, she is doing this at two levels. On the technology side, the company has found that most fake news is financially motivated; so, what it is trying to do is to disrupt financial incentives. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their ad-filled websites.
Facebook is doing several things to reduce the financial incentives, Brown said. On the buying side, it has eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, it is analysing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
Last year, the company also made changes to its News Feed to reduce stories from sources that consistently posted clickbait headlines. Last month, Facebook announced another update so that misleading posts would be downgraded. Now, Facebook will take into account clickbait at the individual post level in addition to the domain and page level, in order to more precisely reduce clickbait headlines.
However, Brown says the bigger and more longer-term effort is around education or what she calls “news and digital literacy”. She adds that there is no curriculum that teaches kids today how to be discerning about sources of information; so, Facebook has launched a news integrity initiative which is a coalition of diverse news networks as partners who will work together to focus on news literacy. The initiative will address the problems of misinformation, disinformation and the opportunities the internet provides to inform the public conversation in new ways. Brown was in India to meet publishers and talk about this project.
Thus, the company is working on incorporating new signals to better identify and rank authentic content to make sure that posts are more relevant for the readers and not misleading. It is also working on ways to identify fake accounts.
Facebook is also working with fact-checking organizations that can flag misleading content so that a user knows that the content is disputed and will be less likely to share it.
“We are working on multiple fronts: on the technology side, education and partnering with publishers to ensure that we reduce fake news,” said Brown, who has over 20 years of experience in journalism.
Media and journalism is going through massive transformation, Brown said. “I was very clear that Facebook is an important part of the future of journalism and as this transition happens, I want to be part of finding the right solution from a platform perspective.”
Transparency around News Feed is another issue that Facebook has been struggling with and Brown agrees that the company is working on making the ranking process more transparent: “The goal is to ensure that what you see in your news feed is meaningful to you and reduce inauthentic news.”