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Facebook Fights Fake News

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In an attempt to curb the rise of numerous articles labeled "fake news" (a term popularized by sitting president Donald Trump), Facebook is pushing back. In a statement released on August 28th by Satwik Shukla and Tessa Lyons, both Product Managers at the company, Facebook declared "we're working to fight the spread of false news". In the statement, Shukla and Lyons outlined Facebook's their three-pronged plan to fight against advertisers accused of promoting false news and hoax stories on Facebook. The proposal focuses on "disrupting the economic incentives to create false new", "building new products to curb the spread of false news" and "helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.

Stemming the "Fake News" wave

Back in March, the company began an effort to begin flagging fake news stories after the social network began being purportedly inundated by such articles. This effort not only implemented manual flagging by its users, but also marked the beginning of the usage of third-party fact-checking groups to dispute the veracity of any story that was considered questionable, already behind promises to release a manual report system and page curator initiative back in December.

This system, hoping to curb the traffic, ultimately proved to be no more than a "believe at your own risk" banner across any page that allegedly pumped out fake news. The system's roll-out was flawed and arguably only marginally effective in its execution. Only after either being seen by their fact-checkers or reported manually by readers flagging the articles would the stories be slapped merely with a "disputed" banner after evaluation by entities such as PolitiFact or Snopes.com. Many see the label of "disputed" (as opposed to "outright false") being a laughable description of the problem and hardly any concrete solution.

The New System

However, as of August 28th Facebook's policy against fake news pages just got a whole lot meaner. The update, which went live in tandem with their announcement, is designed to begin fighting fake news through their first key area listed in their statement- targeting advertisement revenue. "False news is harmful to our community. It makes the world less informed and erodes trust." Seeking to do some real damage to pages that attempt to distribute fake news, Facebook sets their crosshairs on the wallets of troublesome advertisers. The update will target pages that seek to deliberately spread false news, preventing them from running advertisements via Facebook. The statement reads "if a Page repeatedly shares stories that have been marked as false by third-party fact-checkers, they will no longer to be able to buy ads on Facebook."

"Today’s update helps to disrupt the economic incentives and curb the spread of false news, which is another step towards building a more informed community on Facebook." Given the delays from last December, and the debatable effectiveness of the content review from their March update, it remains to be seen how this effective this new policy and update will be in slowing or turning the overwhelming tide of fake news stories.

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