Facebook ended a test to fight fake news that called real news fake

What is real anymore?
What is real anymore?
Image: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Facebook is stumbling in its efforts to combat the scourge of modern day politics which it helped create. Its latest attempt to fight fake news handed over the power to users, which resulted in posts from legitimate news organizations getting effectively labeled as fake.

The test, which the company just ended, prioritized comments that show disbelief, the BBC reported. In practice, top comments on news items from organizations such as The New York Times or The Economist contained Trump-esque exclamations of “fake news!”

Facebook told the BBC in a statement that this was a small test that had concluded, and that the company would “keep working to find new ways to help our community make more informed decisions about what they read and share.”

The platform, under pressure from lawmakers around the world, keeps experimenting with efforts to fight the spread of misinformation. Another recent test introduced an “i” button, which is meant to give users context on the source of the content, including the Wikipedia entry on the publisher, and a button to follow to their Facebook page.

It also recently rolled out a feature called “Related Articles,” for popular news stories. It includes links to alternative sources which may be reporting on the story from a different angle, or are discussions of the story from third-party fact-checkers.

The company touts its use of these fact-checkers, which include Politifact, Snopes, and the Associated Press, but a recent story from Bloomberg showed that the effort is not all that effective. While flagging a story as “disputed,” reduces the views by 80% according to Facebook, the process of verification is cumbersome, and the outside fact-checkers can only review a fraction of the stories they are sent.