Facebook Cracking Down on Fake News: Here’s How

January 21, 2015 Updated: January 21, 2015

Facebook has announced that it will try to beat back the swell of fake news, so what does this mean for the average user?

In recent months, there’s been an uptick in fake news websites—as opposed to satirical sites—that essentially post unfunny, bogus pieces in an attempt to get web traffic. Bogus stories that go viral are celebrity death hoaxes, false science pieces, articles about TV shows being canceled, and more.

The main vehicle that drives traffic to these fake news sites is Facebook. A bogus piece can get several million “likes” and shares on the social media platform, such as a National Report story saying 2014 federal tax refunds will be delayed until October 2015, which generated more than 1.5 million shares.

Facebook has rolled out a feature that allows users to report fake news. (Facebook.com)
Facebook has rolled out a feature that allows users to report fake news. (Facebook.com)

Other hoaxes involve claims of a “shocking video,” which redirects users to a website that first asks users to share or “like” the page before going further. After that, the users don’t actually get to see a video, but are greeted with bogus surveys, malware, or rogue Facebook apps that are hard to remove.

But now, Facebook appears to have responded to complaints from users who are tired of seeing the fake pieces pop up in their news feed.

In a newsroom post, Facebook wrote: “Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook.”

The company stipulates, “we are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy.”

It’s unclear exactly how the mechanism will work, but Facebook will display an annotation on the post that says, “many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information.” Also, Facebook will make it easier to report a post as false news.

“Recently, we added an option for people to report a story they see in News Feed as false. This works in the same way as reporting a story as spam. When you click to hide a story you also have the option to report the content. Stories that include scams, or deliberately misleading news, are reported two and a half times more often than links to other news stories,” Facebook added.

However, Hoax-Slayer.com wrote in a post, “it remains to be seen how effective this new strategy will be.”

Also, it doesn’t appear that the false news reporting feature is available for every Facebook user yet.