Monday, December 19, 2016

MEDIA - Facebook vs Fake News

"Will new tools help Facebook users get the facts on fake news?" PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016


SUMMARY:  During the last three months of the campaign, fake news headlines drew more engagement than real reporting, and social media platforms were criticized for not doing enough to dispute false information.  Now Facebook is launching new tools to help identify dubious or made-up stories.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Slate's Will Oremus about weeding out fake news.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It was a stunning finding, even in a digital age where stories of all kind go viral.  During the last three months of the presidential campaign, fake or false news headlines actually generated more engagement on Facebook than true ones.  Facebook and other social media platforms were criticized for not doing enough to flag or dispute these posts.

Today, Facebook launched several new tools to flag and dispute what it calls the “worst of the worst” when it comes to clear lies.  Those tools are essentially embedded in your individual feed.

Here's a bit of a video the company posted about how it will work.

NARRATOR:  You may see an alert before you share some links that have been disputed by third-party fact checkers.  You can then cancel or continue with the post.  If you suspect a news story is fake, you can report it.  It just takes a few taps.  Your report helps us track and prevent fake news from spreading.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Let's learn more about this effort to detect and slow the spread of fake news, part of our occasional series on the subject.  Will Oremus has been writing about this extensively for Slate and working on that site's own new tool for identifying false stories.

First, Will, let's talk a little bit about what Facebook announce today.  How is it going to work?

WILL OREMUS, Slate:  So, Facebook's approach to fake news has several components.  One thing it's going to try to do is make it easier for users to report it when they see fake news in their feeds.  The next thing they're going to do is they're going to take that information about stories that are being reported as fake, and they're going to use some software, run some algorithms and create a dashboard of stories that might be fake and give access to that dashboard to third-party checking organizations.  So, these are like Snopes or PolitiFact,

Those fact checkers are going to have their human editors evaluate some of the most viral of the stories that have been flagged as fake, and if they determine it is in fact a fake news story, Facebook is going to treat it differently.  It's going to show it to fewer people in its feeds.  It's going to make it go less viral and it's also going to give people a warning before they try to share that story, saying this story has been disputed.  It will still let you share it.  It's not censoring or filtering out anything.  But it is downgrading it in the ranking algorithm and it is letting people know that this has been disputed.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, Facebook is not the arbiter of the truth.  There are third parties checking this for them, right?

WILL OREMUS:  Yes, and Facebook has been incredibly reluctant to become the arbiter of what's true for good reason.  Facebook, the value of its business, depends on appealing to people on both sides, all across the political spectrum.

So, it doesn't want to be a media company.  It has said this many times.  What it is doing here is shrewd, I think.  It is delegating the responsibility to respected, non-profit, third-party organizations whose whole job is to figure out what's true and what's not.

RELATED:  "Facebook unveils plan to flag fake news stories" by Courtney Norris, PBS NewsHour 12/15/2016

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