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Facebook Rolls Out Tools to Curb Fake News After Uproar (1)

Thursday, 15 Dec 2016 04:02 PM

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is changing its powerful news feed in an effort to stamp out fake stories following a firestorm around the social network's role in spreading false information.

The new features, rolled out to select U.S. users on Thursday, add options for readers and third-party fact checkers to flag articles, tweak Facebook's algorithm and provide more restrictions on advertising. A month ago, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said these changes were coming, responding to extensive criticism in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.

The issue has only grown more heated since. A Pew Research Center survey, released on Thursday, revealed that almost one-quarter of Americans believed they shared fake news and a greater percentage were concerned about its consequences. 

Still, Facebook framed its moves carefully, showing its aversion to being seen as taking an editorial or political stance. "Fake news means different things to different people," said Adam Mosseri, Facebook's vice president of product management. "What we're focused on is the worst of the worst. We're not looking to get into the gray area of opinion." 

Two of the incoming changes are very visible. Facebook users will be able to flag content on the site as a "fake news story." Articles deemed false by Facebook's partner, Poynter Institute's International Fact Checking Network, will have a new tag attached: "Disputed by 3rd Party Fact-Checkers." Publishers behind these articles will no longer be able to promote these articles as Facebook paid ads. The social network also will be working with fact-checking organizations Politfact, Snopes and FactCheck.org, as well as ABC News and the Associated Press to identify articles as fake. 

But Facebook isn't scrubbing these articles from its site altogether. "If something is been disputed, we're going to let you know," Mosseri said. "But you can still share it because we believe in giving people a voice."

Facebook also said it's taking steps to snip financial incentives for publishers of fake news. It plans to cut off producers of content from hoax domains from buying on its ad networks. Mosseri said these websites represent a negligible part of Facebook's advertising revenue. 

Mosseri noted that the adjustments are algorithmic and won't rely on editors employed by Facebook. He also dismissed the likelihood that users would take advantage of the new features to bombard articles or publications they disagree with, rather than those stories they find blatantly false.

These incidents "happen many times less -- orders of magnitude less," Mosseri said. "Most people aren't going to report anything negative." 

(Updates with additional fact-checking and news organizations in the fifth paragraph.)

To contact the author of this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Pollack at apollack1@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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2016-02-15
Thursday, 15 Dec 2016 04:02 PM
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