If you’ve ever clicked a link on your Facebook newsfeed expecting news and instead find a few photos, lots of ads, and zero information, you are one of many. Users have been complaining about “clickbait” posted on the site for about as long as it’s been around. That may soon change. Facebook has announced that they are cracking down on clickbait articles.
“Historically, we have relied on our community to help us understand what is fake and what is not,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on the social media site. “Anyone on Facebook can report any link as false, and we use signals from those reports along with a number of others—like people sharing links to myth-busting sites such as Snopes — to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation.”
The problem, Zuckerberg says, is far more complicated than just deleting reported posts or blocking reported users from creating new posts on the social media site.
“We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible,” Zuckerberg said. “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”
Because the Facebook reporting system allows anyone with an account on the site to hide, report, or block any content they are not interested in seeing, some have chosen to use the tool to hide posts or articles that do not agree with their political or religious views. Simply reporting an article and having it removed would silence millions who use the site for self-expression and to promote causes such as LGBTQA+ issues, racial issues, and women’s rights.
Zuckerberg says the ration of real to fake news on the site is relatively small. However, the company is instituting several improvements in order to crack down.
Stronger detection system are being implemented, which the company says will detect which posts users would choose to flag before they have a chance to even see it. Easier reporting for users including the option to suggest the post is fake will also be implemented and Zuckerberg says the site will use third party verification for fact checking.
Facebook is also “exploring labeling stories that have been flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them,” says the CEO.
Perhaps the most important part of the new plan though, is changing the way the proliferators of this fake news are able to make money. By changing their ad policies, Facebook hope to disrupt the cash flow of “financially motivated spam.”
Zuckerberg says some of the systems may not work as well as others, but the company takes the issue of misinformation seriously. For now, users can continue to report fake or misleading news and avoid taking the bait. As for those ‘related articles’ listed below the actual news? Facebook say they are “raising the bar” for the stories that appear there and soon users may find actual news articles there.