Facebook Fights Fake News with Publisher Info Buttons

By Todd Smith, Mississippi Business Journal

Facebook has taken another step in fighting fake news – by showing Wikipedia entries about publishers and additional Related Articles to give more context about the links they see.

It has begun testing a new “i” button on News Feed links that opens up an informational panel. “People have told us that they want more information about what they’re reading” Facebook product manager Sara Su told TechCrunch. “They want better tools to help them understand if an article is from a publisher they trust and evaluate if the story itself is credible.”

This box will display the start of a Wikipedia entry about the publisher and a link to the full profile, which could help people know if it’s a reputable, long-standing source of news – or a newly set up partisan or satire site. It will also display info from their Facebook Page even if that’s not who posted the link, data on how the link is being shared on Facebook, and a button to follow the news outlet’s Page.

If no Wikipedia page is available, that info will be missing, which could also provide a clue to readers that the publisher may not be legitimate.

Meanwhile, the button will also unveil Related Articles on all links where Facebook can generate them, rather than only if the article is popular or suspected of being fake news as Facebook had previously tested. Trending information could also appear if the article is part of a Trending topic. Together, this could show people alternate takes on the same news bite, which might dispute the original article or provide more perspective. Previously Facebook only showed Related Articles occasionally and immediately revealed them on links without an extra click.

The changes are part of Facebook’s ongoing initiative to improve content integrity. Whenever Facebook shows more information, it creates more potential misinformation. “This work reflects feedback from our community, including publishers who collaborated on the feature development as part of the Facebook Journalism Project” Su said.

And to avoid distributing fake news, Facebook says Related Articles will “be about the same topic – and will be from a wide variety of publishers that regularly publish news content on Facebook that get high engagement with our community.”

Getting this right is especially important after the fiasco in wake of the tragic Las Vegas mass-shooting pointed people to fake news. If Facebook can’t improve trust in what’s shown in the News Feed, people might click its links less. That could hurt credible news publishers, as well as reducing clicks to Facebook’s ads, according to TechCrunch.

Facebook initially downplayed the issue of fake news after the U.S. presidential election where it was criticized for allowing pro-Trump hoaxes to proliferate. But since then, the company and Mark Zuckerberg have changed their tunes.

The company has attacked fake news from all angles, using artificial intelligence to discover it in the News Feed, working with third-party fact checkers to flag suspicious articles, helping users more easily report hoaxes, detecting news sites filled with low-quality ads, and deleting accounts suspected of spamming.

 

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

Amanda Patanow