A self-remedy from Facebook

İSMAIL SELIM EŞSIZ
Published

Ever since the last presidential election in the United States, fake news is one of the most talked about problems plaguing today's media. Although the issue has been debated by journalists before, its effects have grabbed the general public's attention en masse recently. Turkish media has been complaining and debating fake news on social media for years.

Among the countless articles on the subject, a sizable portion targeted Facebook and stated that fake news originating from social media played a large part in the 2016 presidential elections between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Similarly, reactions to the Brexit referendum were also added to examples of things that social media needs to take steps to combat the spread of fake news. For more on the subject, look at the Reader's Corner article titled, "What is your problem with Facebook?" that was published back in Nov. 27, 2017.

Since then, Facebook has indeed been taking steps to curb exposure to fake news sources in the news feeds of their users. Some of the steps they took according to their April 6, 2017, dated update titled, "Working to Stop Misinformation and False News" were:

"Better identifying false news through our community and third-party fact-checking organizations so that we can limit its spread, which, in turn, makes it uneconomical.

Applying machine learning to assist our response teams in detecting fraud and enforcing our policies against inauthentic spam accounts.

Updating our detection of fake accounts on Facebook, which makes spamming at scale much harder"

Apart from those technical approaches, Facebook also joined those that have made a set of guidelines for their readers to better spot fake news. After all, an informed and forewarned reader is much less likely to unknowingly help the spread of false information. Although these guidelines have been already released to users from several countries, the guidelines prepared for Turkey's users were just released. This work was also in partnership with Kadir Has University, which held a conference back in April on "post-truth" and how to combat fake news. Here are Facebook's tips:

"Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.

Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.

Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their ‘About' section to learn more.

Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.

Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.

Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.

Check the evidence. Check the author's sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.

Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it's more likely to be true.

Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. 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 you read, and only share news that you know to be credible."

Although similar guidelines have been prepared by numerous media organizations before, the fact that the source of these are social media is certainly a welcome change. Not to mention that users are more likely to encounter them in the same place they come across the fake news, which can certainly make a difference.

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