9 May 2017

Facebook helps users to spot 'fake news'

From Morning Report, 7:57 am on 9 May 2017

Facebook is advising its users how to spot deliberately misleading content online, in the weeks leading up to the British general election.

A file photo of the Facebook logo on a desktop computer

Photo: 123RF

The social media company has placed adverts in newspapers warning people to check reports and sources, as well as other clues.

But will this activity actually have any effect?

The Wall Street Journal's Stu Woo says there are suggestions Facebook is trying too make it look like it's taking action.

"I spoke to one professor who said this is just Facebook doing something so that politician won't say they're not doing anything"

"They have spent a lot of money to roll out this education campaign and they are working with independent third party news organisations to try to fact check some of the articles that are seen on social networks."

Mr Woo says Facebook is trying to get its users to report suspicious content.

"If you look at the newspaper ad, it says together we can limit the spread of false news and the UK policy director for Facebook says we can't do this by ourselves; we're going to need you guys to help - we're only one part of the problem, we're going to need you guys to report stories that you think are fake."

Mr Woo says Facebook's is telling its users it will give them the tools that make this work, but they're going to have to use them.

The social media giant is tweaking its algorythym as well as requiring more of its employees check what exactly is being shared.

"Facebook is dealing with a couple of different problems - one of them is where people broadcasting murders live on the site so they've hired a lot more people to help prevent that."

Mr Woo says changed to the algorythym could include making it less apparent on people's newsfeeds if they read articles but don't share them to ensure misinformation doesn't spread and right now we don't know if this is going to work.

"They're going to try a couple of things out over the next four of weeks to see how it does ot doesn't influence the UK election."