Facebook's New Context Tool to Help Spot Fake News

Facebook users will soon see a new button on articles that they can click to learn context about the story's publisher. The social network believes these pop-up windows will help readers determine whether or not the news is from a credible outlet.

Zuckerberg.Facebook

Fake news is pretty hard to eradicate from the media. In fact, it's impossible, because so much of the information on the internet is false, misleading or just plain lies. Too many people are willing to lie and publish it.

Facebook, which as the world's largest social network is already under increasing public and government scrutiny for its central role in delivering fake news and ads planted by Russian operatives during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, continues to give the "identify and kill fake news" project the old college try.

The company said Oct. 5 that it will begin distributing a new tool to help its users spot "fake news" when they think they see it.

Facebook users will soon see a new button on articles that they can click to learn context about the story's publisher. The social network believes these pop-up windows will help readers determine whether or not the news is from a credible outlet. Thus news-publishing credibility can be checked on any story, at any time.

"This new feature is designed to provide people some of the tools they need to make an informed decision about which stories to read, share, and trust," Facebook staffers Andrew Anker, Sara Su, and Jeff Smith wrote in a corporate blog. "It reflects feedback from our community, including many publishers who collaborated on its development as part of our work through the Facebook Journalism Project."

In some cases, if that information is unavailable, Facebook will let people know, which also can be helpful context. The social media network has been criticized since the 2016 election for carrying fake news and ads and being unable to validate articles shared on the social network.

Two months ago, Facebook announced it would block pages that repeatedly share stories marked as false from advertising on the platform. Third-party fact-checking sources are used to determine whether stories are fake.

On Oct. 4, the network admitted that more than 10 million people in the U.S. states Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois were fed fake and/or misleading ads bought by Russian operatives criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and promoting Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Last month, Facebook came under fire after it reported that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian company known to push propaganda and fake news during the 2016 election.

More than 3,000 ads, which were purchased between June 2015 and May 2017, were handed over to Congress Oct. 2 and will be examined as part of its sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...