Facebook Inc said it has taken steps to clamp down on “hoaxes” and fake news stories that can spread like wildfire on its 1.35-billion member online social network.
The company said it had introduced an option to allow Facebook users to flag a story as “purposefully fake or deceitful news” to reduce the distribution of news stories reported as hoaxes.
Facebook said it will not remove fake news stories from its website. Instead, the company’s algorithm, which determines how widely user posts are distributed, will take into account hoax reports.
The Facebook researchers said people “often share these hoaxes and later decide to delete their original posts after they realize they have been tricked.”
An update to Facebook’s News Feed will aim to limit the spread of posts that have been reported as hoaxes and adds an a warning to messages that have been flagged as suspicious.
Facebook has also added an option that allows its users to report a “false news story” being circulated.
The social network said the update “reduces the distribution” of these posts but does not eliminate them.
In order to combat the issue, Facebook has added an option to report stories in the News Feed as false:
This works in the same way as reporting a story as spam. When you click to hide a story you also have the option to report the content. Stories that include scams, or deliberately misleading news, are reported two and a half times more often than links to other news stories.
To reduce the number of these types of posts, News Feed will take into account when many people flag a post as false. News Feed will also take into account when many people choose to delete posts. This means a post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed.
Facebook won’t actually cut the posts, but if one of these stories does make its way into your News Feed, it will be coupled with a warning message.
As for satirical content, the social network says you should still continue to see those stories.
“We’ve found from testing that people tend not to report satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire,” Facebook said. “This type of content should not be affected by this update.”
Facebook similarly said that “the vast majority of publishers” on the social network shouldn’t be affected, but that the few that who frequently post hoaxes and scams “will see their distribution decrease”.