Microblogging site Twitter is believed to be considering introducing a new feature allowing users to flag up any fake news articles and report them to the site.
If implemented to the site, users would be able to raise their concerns over stories and tweets they believe to be inaccurate or false in a move that sees the social site attempt to tackle the issue of fake news and disinformation.
The Washington Post reports that the new tool would work in a similar way to current flagging options, in that users can report specific tweets and posts as spam, harmful or abusive.
This move would follow in the footsteps of rival social media giant Facebook, which brought in an option for users to report fake and inaccurate news to the site’s administrators last December.
In the US, Facebook’s tool allows users to report posts that are “purposefully fake or deceitful” to site moderators. However, here in the UK, the equivalent option only lets users block the poster or message them. It does not offer a way to let the site moderators know about the posts.
It is not yet known what Twitter intends to do with the data it gathers from reports of fake and inaccurate news. The Washington Post has suggested that one reason why Twitter has progressed so slowly on the topic is because it is still unsure on whether it intends to fully roll out the feature to all users, because of concerns that the reporting feature might be used by some users to “game the system”.
Other reporting systems introduced by the site have not been used in the ways they were intended, with a number of users ending up with suspended accounts due to organised campaigns that saw thousands of reports citing “abusive” behaviour being sent to the site’s administrators within a short period of time.
Furthermore, should Twitter avoid this issue, it could then run the risk of accusations claiming political bias against stories it chooses to remove. This is something Facebook fell foul of when it was accused of having human editors trending fake news on the site. This prompted the company to fire all human editors.
With fake news being reported in nearly every aspect of online news, sites with high authority and user bases, such as Facebook and Twitter, need to be careful about what it allows to circulate on their site, making functions such as this a potentially useful feature. Facebook has also turned to fact-checking sites to complement user reports in an attempt to distance itself from accusations of favouritism and bias.