Technology

Facebook to stop showing warning icons next to suspected fake news

The social network said it found the technique was having a negative effect.

Facebook will no longer display warning icons next to suspected fake news stories after research suggested it was not correcting misinformation.

The social network announced last year it would add a red flag warning symbol to articles that third-party fact checkers believed were fake news.

However, the tech giant has now said it is ending the practice after new academic research showed a strong image placed next to articles could “entrench deeply-held beliefs”.

Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons said this was “the opposite effect to what we intended”.

The site said it will now use a related articles feature instead to help readers gain a broader range of views on a subject.

“Related articles, by contrast, are simply designed to give more context, which our research has shown is a more effective way to help people get to the facts,” Ms Lyons said.

(Ben Lister/PA)
(Ben Lister/PA)

“Indeed, we’ve found that when we show related articles next to a false news story, it leads to fewer shares than when the disputed flag is shown.”

Facebook was heavily criticised by MPs earlier this week during an appearance before the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee – which accused the site, as well as Twitter and Google, of profiting from hateful content on their platforms and failing to effectively act in the removal of abusive content.

The company was also recently accused of doing “no work” to investigate Russia-linked propaganda and fake news accounts on the site after being requested to provide evidence to the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

“False news undermines the unique value that Facebook offers: the ability for you to connect with family and friends in meaningful ways,” Ms Lyons said.

“It’s why we’re investing in better technology and more people to help prevent the spread of misinformation.

“Overall, we’re making progress. Demoting false news (as identified by fact-checkers) is one of our best weapons because demoted articles typically lose 80% of their traffic.

“This destroys the economic incentives spammers and troll farms have to generate these articles in the first place.”

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