If fake news has been weaponized by fear-mongers, mob-rousers and election-meddlers, many believe Facebook should share some of the blame. It is, though, trying to make amends. So it says. As the 2020 US presidential elections approach, the social media platform has just announced new measures to curb misinformation that could mislead voters.

As a move against online impersonation, it plans to add information displays that would help others check the authenticity of a Facebook account. It also intends to use a system of labelling to caution users on what they’re seeing. Material that fails its fact-check filters would be marked out as such, and this would apply even to paid-for content. Ads run by politicians had been exempt from fact checks all this while. This will change, the company assures us. Facebook also intends to take action against dangerously motivated campaigns that can clearly be identified as such. Four state-backed disinformation campaigns that originated in Russia and Iran, for example, have just been knocked off.

The implications to freedom of speech are now a secondary matter, clearly. The criticism of Facebook has been so intense, especially after all the heat generated by fake news during the 2016 White House campaign, that it appears to have judged it better to err on the side of veracity. That said, while its policy shift is a good start, it’s also important to remember that fake news has become too pervasive for any single organization to fight on its own. Netizens need to mount their own satyagraha, so to speak.

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