Facebook to fight against fake news during the general election

Facebook has announced the company will take action to combat the torrents of fake news ahead of the UK general election and the users have divided opinions.

The US social media giant sets off to scrutinise its database using algorithms to track down deceptive content and disable false accounts. In addition, it will run newspaper adverts with tips on recognising fake stories. These measures are Facebook’s attempts to put down the heavy criticism sparked by its inefficiency in dealing with the fake news during the US presidential election. The fraudulent stories were spread on social media and are suspected to have influenced the voters.

“They [Facebook] should be able to check whether that story is true or not and, if it is fake, blocking it or alerting people to the fact that it is disputed” said the Conservative MP Damian Collin, adding that the fraudulent stories “fake news phenomenon” could cause “undermine confidence in the media in general” and could have “grave consequences for public attitudes, democratic processes, and the conduct of public life”.

Until recently, the company hesitated to step up and fight the issue: “I don’t think we have to be the publisher and we definitely don’t want to be the arbiter of the truth,” said the chief executive Sheryl Sandberg.

The company’s upgraded systems will examine the click baits and the bogus profiles which are believed to play a major role in the fake stories dissemination. There are 83 million fake profiles on the social media platform (CNN) and 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on daily basis as of May 2013 (Facebook). They expect to “reduce the spread of material generated through this inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content”.

The 31 Facebook users from the UK will be offered guidance on how to spot the misleading stories through a tip list circulated by the British press. Facebook will include such ads in The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. The list advises to “Be skeptical of headlines”, “Look closely at the URL” and “Investigate the source”.


Facebook’s tip list on how to spot fake news. Photo credit: bbc.co.uk/news

Alongside Google, the company announced to support Full Fact and First Draft – third party fact checkers – to “assess facts and stories” during the next month’s election. Full Facts crowdfunded £28,000 to fact check the UK election and has already begun to verify claims by the political parties, newspapers and political manifestos. An arrangement with Google and Facebook has yet to be made before proceeding to scan the social media, where the political parties are expected to ad spend the most in the forthcoming weeks.
“At election time our work is more needed than ever before,” said Will Moy, director of Full Fact.

To find out more about people’s thoughts on the matter, we asked students if they feel capable of identifying fake news online and whether this new step is will help eradicate fake and bias news stories online.

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