FACEBOOK is locked in a never-ending battle with fake news – and its solutions are getting increasingly wacky.
The company’s latest attempt to snuff out online propaganda involves changing the font size on false posts in your Facebook News Feed.
Right now, Facebook pays third-party “fact checkers” to work out whether news stories are fake or real.
But warning users that stories are fake can be tricky.
So Facebook is now shrinking down the size of posts it deems “false” so you’re more likely to miss them in your News Feed.
“We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Normally, a shared Facebook news post would have a very large headline, a very clear website byline and a huge image.
But for false news, everything will now be much smaller.
The headline text will be significantly shrunk, and the image will be a tiny thumbnail – barely noticeable during a frenzied News Feed scrolling session.
Facebook previously tried to warn users about fake news by putting red flags next to the stories.
But the move backfired, and led to false stories being shared even more than they would have otherwise been.
“We learned that dispelling misinformation is challenging,” Facebook product designer Jeff Smith wrote in a blog post late last year.
“Just because something is marked as ‘false’ or ‘disputed’ doesn’t necessarily mean we will be able to change someone’s opinion about its accuracy.
“Some research suggests that strong language or visualisations (like a bright red flag) can backfire and further entrench someone’s beliefs.”
To speed up the process of working out which stories are fake news, Facebook is also employing robots.
Machines will learn what fake news looks like by being fed loads of false stories.
Then it’ll scan future stories for similar traits, and flag them to human fact-checkers for priority review.
“We use machine learning to help predict things that might be more likely to be false news, to help prioritise material we send to fact-checkers (given the large volume of potential material),” a Facebook spokesperson explained.
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Facebook’s continuing push against fake news is highly controversial – because it potentially amounts to online censorship.
Earlier this year, top Facebook employee Samidh Chakrabarti said that it’s not Facebook’s job to filter out fake news.
“In the public debate over false news, many believe Facebook should use its own judgement to filter out misinformation.
“We’ve chosen not to do that because we don’t want to be the arbiters of truth, nor do we imagine this is a role the world would want for us.
“We’ve made it easier to report false news, and have taken steps in partnership with third-party fact checkers to rank these stories lower in News Feed.
“Even with all these countermeasures, the battle will never end.”
Do you reckon you can spot fake news stories from real ones? Let us know in the comments!
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