Facebook takes the fight to fake news

Posted on July 24, 2017


In the latest step to rid itself of the Trump-taint of “fake news”, Facebook has made it impossible to tamper with a link preview – with one exception.

The platform was seen as a quagmire of erroneous stories, misleading “facts” and plain old propaganda during the run up to the most recent American presidential election, and this was viewed by some as a major contributing factor to the victory of reality TV presenter and businessman Donald Trump.

In the weeks following the result that shocked the world, Facebook promised to get to grips with the problem as outlined in a post entitled “News Feed FYI: Addressing Hoaxes and Fake News”.

Users were able to modify how links appeared on their pages, which had the interests of search engine optimisation in mind. However, some unscrupulous people used this to change the link entirely, spreading content that supported a political agenda and misled other users.

This proved to be a particular issue for users with a hair-trigger finger on the ‘share’ button; fake news would spread, but clicking on the link would allow the user to see the true nature of the article before they decided to share it.

Now, Facebook has removed the capacity for users to change a link’s metadata, including the image, description and headline, which could link to a page completely different to what the preview suggests.

The one exception is publisher pages, where the user actually owns the website.

The change was signaled a month ago to prepare page owners, but the feature has just been added to the Pages Publishing Tools tab, under Link Ownership.

Facebook Product Manager, Alex Hardiman, said:

“We’re committed to supporting publisher workflows, while limiting malicious misrepresentations of underlying link content.”

The platform intends to tweak and improve the tool over the coming months, using user feedback.

For now, the feature is limited to online publishers of entertainment, sports and news content, and allows their owners to edit links in a way that doesn’t mislead other users. Should the tool be misappropriated – spam, for example – the publisher’s access to it will be revoked.

Hopefully, the new tool will help to reduce the number of sham stories, and Engage Web will be keeping a close eye on it. After all, we know that quality content beats concocted whoppers any day of the week!


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