Facebook declares war on fake news ahead of UK election

The number of people using Facebook monthly increased 17 percent to 1.94 billion, according to the latest earnings report
Josh Edelson (AFP/File)
The social media giant will delete tens of thousands of unverified accounts to combat 'misinformation'

Facebook has declared war on the fake news phenomena ahead of the United Kingdom general election in June. The social media giant plans to delete tens of thousands of unverified accounts and bogus profiles, according to a Guardian newspaper report on Monday.

With more than 31 million accounts registered in the UK, Facebook is also starting a British fact-checking initiative. The company will stop promoting posts that have been flagged as trafficking in untruths.

The California-based social network is publishing newspaper advertisements on Monday which offer ten tips on identifying fake news.

"If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable they probably are," the advertisement says. “Check the author’s sources to confirm they are accurate” and “only share news that you know to be credible" are other tips.

The initiative comes as the company has been lambasted for its role in disseminating fake news prior to the 2016 Brexit referendum, which saw a majority of Britons vote to leave the European Union. Fake news has also been cited as playing a role in President Donald Trump's election, with millions sharing demonstrably false stories.

Facebook has now said it would change its algorithm to combat misinformation stemming from fake accounts, or spam BOTs. These accounts can be recognized by repeated uploads of the same article.

“With these changes, we expect we will also reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts,” a Facebook spokesperson said to the Guardian.

The company also announced it was supporting Full Fact, a UK-based political fact-checker, “to work with major newsrooms to address rumors and misinformation spreading online during the UK general election."

Facebook CEO and co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has previously said that Facebook does not bear responsibility for content posted since the company is a platform, not a publisher.

In a long-ranging New York Times interview, Zuckerberg somewhat downplayed the problem of fake news.

“I’m actually quite proud of the impact that we were able to have on civic discourse over all," he said.

Despite the public sentiment, Facebook has indicated that it would clamp down on stories that traffic in misinformation. The company may tinker its algorithm to look at whether people share a story after clicking on it, the Times reported. If few people who read the story decide to share it, that could signal that people felt misled or disappointed by the article and it would thus get knocked down on news feed.

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