Facebook revises controversial initiative to fight fake news

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Facebook announced last week that it will no longer use its controversial “Disputed Flags” to identify content that the company’s fact-checkers deem as fake news.

According to a Dec. 20 blog post from Facebook, the company will instead use “Related Articles” to offer context regarding a story.

Facebook made the change after academic research on correcting misinformation revealed that putting a strong image, such as a red flag, next to an article might “actually entrench deeply held beliefs–the opposite effect to what we intended.” The research also found that such markers might encourage users to click on false stories.

The company believes that Related Articles, by contrast, “are simply designed to give more context, which our research has shown is a more effective way to help people get to the facts.”

When showing Related Articles next to a false news story, Facebook has found that it leads to fewer shares than when the Disputed Flag is shown.

The company also announced another initiative which will seek to better understand how people decide whether information is accurate, based on the news sources on which they depend.

Last year, Facebook partnered with multiple media organizations, including Snopes, ABC News and FactCheck.org, in an attempt to quell the spread of so-called “fake news,” or content containing misinformation.

In an attempt to assist users in identifying fake news and reduce the spread of hoaxes, the fact-checkers were given permission to dispute content on the platform. Articles deemed fake by verified fact-checkers got demoted, significantly reducing the proliferation of such content.

“Overall, we’re making progress,” the company said. “Demoting false news (as identified by fact-checkers) is one of our best weapons because demoted articles typically lose 80 percent of their traffic. This destroys the economic incentives spammers and troll farms have to generate these articles in the first place.”

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