Fake news has permeated every corner of the Internet and tarnished the reputations of leading social media networks.
For Facebook (FB) combating fake news has become a top priority after the company faced criticism during the run-up to the 2017 U.S. presidential election for spreading false news and favoring liberal content over more conservative-leaning news. Advertisers haven’t pulled ads from Facebook yet but rival Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) hasn’t been so lucky. Angry advertisers are retreating from Google owned YouTube.com due to the placement of their ads alongside controversial content. Meanwhile Martin Sorrell, the CEO of advertising company WPP Group recently warned Facebook and Google have a responsibility to make sure the news shared on their networks are real or risk losing ad dollars.
Against that backdrop Facebook has been trying to get out in front of the controversy and clean up its social network. It comes at a time when Facebook is branching into video and is hoping to be the place advertisers and users go to access live video. In order to achieve that status Facebook requires a stellar reputation with marketers. This year alone it announced a slew of measures aimed at meeting that end.
The Journalism Project
At the center of Facebook’s war on fake news is the Journalism Project, which it launched at the start of 2017 with the aim of creating a healthier news ecosystem on the platform. As part of this project, Facebook said it will promote news literacy and develop additional tools to fight false news. (See more: Facebook Launches Journalism Project to Curb Fake News.)
Facebook started rolling out some of the initiatives with one of the more prominent efforts being the "disputed tag" that now sits alongside stories on Facebook’s News Feed. If a user reports a news story as fake and it is deemed to be the case, the story will be tagged disputed. Facebook is relying on non-partisan third parties to determine if a news story flagged is fake or factual. (Read more: Facebook Adds Dispute Tag to Flag Fake News.)
Facebook is also putting its money to work, joining the “News Integrity Initiative,” a $14 million fund that includes Facebook, Mozilla and the City University of New York (CUNY) as participants. The diversified global consortium will finance research to develop tools to help individuals identify real news to read and share online. The projects will be administered by and housed at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Facebook declined to comment for the story.
Facebook’s Three Pronged Approach
But that’s not all Facebook has done. Just last week, the company announced the addition of an alert on the top of the News Feed that provides users with tips for spotting false news. In a blog post announcing the new feature Adam Mosseri, vice president of Facebook News Feed, said Facebook would also focus on disrupting the economic incentives for peddling fake news. “False news and hoaxes are harmful to our community and make the world less informed. All of us have a responsibility to curb the spread of false news,” said Mosseri. Some of the tips include being skeptical of headlines, looking closely at the URL to make sure it’s not a fake, investigating the source of the news and watching for unusual formatting such as misspelling or awkward layouts.
Whether or not Facebook’s efforts are enough to fight the fake news phenomenon remains to be seen. After all fake news is a global problem. But one thing is for sure: Facebook alone isn’t going to solve the problem. Mosseri agrees. “We need to work across industries to help solve this problem: technology companies, media companies, educational organizations and our own community can come together to help curb the spread of misinformation and false news,” he wrote.