Facebook has tried, and they seem to be failing. The social network has been making an effort to combat fake news, and simply, it isn’t working. So the company is trying a different tact.
About a year ago, Facebook made an announcement that would allow people to flag fake news articles so that third-party fact checkers could evaluate their veracity, and if it was seen as false, flag them as “Disputed.” But, this labeling system really hasn’t done much good. In fact, it could have done more harm than good.
“Academic research on correcting misinformation has shown that putting a strong image, like a red flag, next to an article may actually entrench deeply held beliefs – the opposite effect to what we intended,” Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons wrote in a company blog post published on Wednesday.
Rather than continuing with the “Disputed” label, Facebook will attach links to related articles that can give more context to a potentially fake article and evidence of its falsehoods. These related articles, according to Facebook, could end up doing better of a job at convincing people that a story is untrue and circumventing its spread across the social network.
“Disputed flags were only applied after two third-party fact-checking organizations determined an article was false because it was a strong visual signal and we wanted to set a high bar for where we applied it. Requiring two false ratings slowed down our ability to provide additional context and often meant that we weren’t able to do so at all,” according to the blog post.
Not only that, Facebook didn’t label all links whose facts were in dispute as false. “Some of our fact-checking partners use a range of ratings. For example, they might use ‘false,’ ‘partly false,’ ‘unproven,’ and ‘true.’ We only applied Disputed flags to ‘false’ ratings because it was a strong visual signal,” wrote Smith, Jackson and Raj.
Facebook, in order to bolster this latest attempt to fight fake news, is “starting a new initiative to better understand how people decide whether information is accurate or not based on the news sources they depend upon,” according to Lyons. She did not provide details of what exactly that initiative will entail but wrote that it “will not directly impact News Feed in the near term.”