Facebook has deleted thousands of UK accounts and overhauled its news feed in an attempt to battle fake news.
The social network has been under pressure to address “false news” in recent months, following concerns about its impact on elections in the US and Europe and fears that it could undermine advertisers’ confidence in Facebook.
Facebook have announced a new drive to tackle fake news in the UK, just a month before election day. It says it has introduced new technology to help identify accounts that spread spam or fake news, such as detecting patterns of those that repeatedly post the same things and they have reportedly deleted tens of thousands of accounts.
Suspicious articles will also be demoted so that users see them less often in the Facebook news feed. The company has been testing technology that identifies if people read an article but do not share it with their friends, suggesting it may be misleading.
Facebook reported a 76% increase in profits last week, with soaring advertising revenue suggesting that the fake news scandal had not had a big impact on its advertising.
Politicians, however, have raised the possibility of regulating or fining the company if it fails to deal with the problem.
Germany has threatened to fine social media sites up to €50m (£42m) for spreading fake news, and an inquiry had been launched into the phenomenon by the Culture, Media and Sport committee before the election was called.
“People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we,” the company’s UK policy director Simon Milner said. “That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news.”
The company has also announced partnerships with Full Fact and First Draft, non-profit fact-checking organisations, to tackle fake news in the run-up to the election.
Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg originally attempted to play down the fake news problem, saying that it made up just a fraction of what appeared on the site, yet in recent months it has introduced a series of initiatives, including restricting advertising on fake news websites, giving users tips about spotting fake news and putting alerts on disputed stories.
Fears around fake news peaked around the US election, with claims that far-right internet groups had spread lies about Hillary Clinton to influence the vote. This has led to concerns that June’s election, as well as votes in France and Germany, could be affected.
Facebook do have some top tips on how you can spot the fake news:
- Be skeptical 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.
- 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 humourous 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.