technology blog
21 August

Did Facebook Leave it Too Late to Punish Fake News Sites?

Fake news has become a big issue in the modern socio-political scenario. The rampant use of fake news to incite people and use them to create propaganda is evident on Facebook. However, the social network could not do much to stop spreading the news. Now, Facebook looks ready to crack down on the pages that are spreading fake messages as news. The question remains- is Facebook too late?

How is fake news spread on Facebook?

Many pages claim to be news sources on Facebook. They share links to different shady websites and write inciting or hateful messages on their messages. Ironically, these pages have very high engagement level as well. Due to this, these pages start acting as rumor mills and cook stories one after the other. Considering how easy it is to create a Facebook page and start sharing stories like this, it could be difficult for the social network itself to crack down on fake news.

New fake news tool

Facebook recently launched a new fake news tool uses the power of its 1.8 billion users to find fake news. The new tool will now allow users to flag any report as ‘disputed news’ so that the social network could be notified about such a source. Though the flag was announced in December 2016, it has recently been rolled out in the United States and can be found on a large scale.

Note that Facebook was under tough German scrutiny in December last year. It was announced that the social network will be charged 500,000 euros for every fake news story that it fails to take down. Such tough remarks by Germany made Facebook up the ante and prepare for fake news stories quickly. However, its fake news detection tool is still not widely available, especially outside the United States. This could hurt the company’s prospects in suggesting that it is serious about taking fake news down and present more unbiased news to its users.

Is Facebook too late?

It is highly likely that Facebook is too late in combating fake news. The platform has been misused by miscreants in creating scores of fake news stories, photo shopped images and thousands of messages to influence social and political trends. In fact, Russian propaganda during the recent Presidential elections was also supposed to be orchestrated through social media websites like Facebook. As these social networks do not have proactive fake news detection tools, it is highly likely that Facebook is too late.

However, there is still a scope for the social network to mend its algorithms. The new tool launched by Facebook has been called a half-hearted effort by the network by many. Once a story has been flagged as disputed by a user, it would be given to third-party organizations like FactCheck.org for verification. If the news is indeed fabricated, then Facebook will not take that news down. Instead, it will simply post a warning and an explanation about the status of the news. If someone shares the news, they will be shown a warning by Facebook that the news is disputed. This doesn’t make the cut but Facebook has taken a step.

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