Facebook automates effort to flag ‘fake news’ for fact checking

August 3, 2017

Facebook Inc. is taking a more aggressive step to thwart the spread of fake news on its platform.

The company said it has created a software algorithm to flag stories that may be suspicious and send them to third-party fact checkers. If the fact-checkers review the post and write a story debunking it or giving context, that post may appear below the original content on Facebook’s news feed, according to a company blog post.

Facebook has been taking steps to make sure that new reports spreading on its social network are accurate — without intervening in a biased way. The company has been working closely with fact-checkers like Snopes and Politifact, experimenting earlier this year with tagging stories as “disputed by snopes.com,” for example. The effort hasn’t always worked, with the Guardian newspaper reporting that sometimes an authority figure telling people not to read certain stories has caused them to spread faster.

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, Facebook was criticized for allowing misleading information to go viral, potentially resulting in misinformed voters. One viral hoax, for example, claimed that the Pope had endorsed Trump. After initially disputing that fake news on Facebook could have played a role in the election, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg decided the company should prioritize having informed users. In the months since the election, Trump has used the “fake news” term to refer to the mainstream media.