Facebook has introduced a new tool to help users spot fake news stories.
Last Thursday, a new prompt appeared at the top of users’ news feeds called “How to spot false news”, offering advice on how to recognise fake news articles and prevent them from spreading. Facebook said it was also said it was taking steps to make it more difficult for those posting fake news stories to purchase adverts on the site.
The 10 tips for spotting fake news are:
- Be sceptical of headlines. The headlines of fake news stories are often catchy and contain lots of capital letters and exclamation marks. If claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they may well be.
- Look closely at the URL. Many false news stories mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Check the source. Ensure the story comes from a source with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from a site you have not heard of, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news stories often contain spelling and grammar errors, as well as an awkward looking layout.
- Check the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic but taken out of context. You can do an internet search of the image to find out where it came from.
- Check the dates. Fake news stories may contain timelines that make no sense or event dates which are wrong or have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm they are accurate. Lack of evidence or a reliance on unnamed experts may indicate false news.
- Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it could indicate that it is false.
- Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humorous articles. Check whether the source is known for parody and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories that you read, and only share articles which you know to be credible.
The prompt offers 10 tips on how to stop fake news spreading. Adam Mosseri, the social network’s news feed boss, said: “We know people want to see accurate information on Facebook – and so do we. False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust. It’s not a new phenomenon, and all of us – tech companies, media companies, newsrooms, teachers – have a responsibility to do our part in addressing it.”
Facebook said it had worked with news literacy and fact-checking organisations, including Full Fact in the UK, to create the new guidance.
Full Fact’s Director, Will Moy, said: ‘Nobody wants to mislead their friends, and this is a great chance to remind people: if you’re not sure, don’t share. Today’s announcement is welcome. We hope that Facebook will also recognise how much more they can do to make it easier for users to spot false news online. The launch of this educational campaign is useful and timely but it should just be the start.”
Facebook’s latest announcement comes after founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his site following the US election in November when it was claimed by some that the presence of fake news stories surrounding Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could have influenced some voters.
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic,” said Zuckerberg. “Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here.”
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