Since Facebook received a lot of backlash over its role in the spread of the fake news phenomenon, which has ushered in the post-truth era, it has promised to play a bigger and better role in the management of information on its platform.
On Friday, Facebook has finally unveiled its new tool meant to combat the spread of fake news. However, it may not be exactly what many users hoped. The tool consists in a disputed tag which will appear below a “news story” articles found on the social network which presents false information.
Combating fake news without completely going down the rabbit hole of censorship is a delicate matter. Therefore, Facebook seems to have taken a softer approach by tagging individual stories, not entire sites or publication as fake, and still allowing them to be spread on the Facebook, with the mention that they will feature a disputed tag.
The disputed tag is meant to inform users that the information presented in a news article is not accurate. Furthermore, Facebook also previously unveiled how a news story will be determined to be fake. The process involves either users reporting it as fake or if Facebook’s algorithms detect it. Afterward, the article will be sent to third-party independent non-partisan fact checkers which joined Facebook’s initiative like Snopes of Politifact.
Only if those two organizations will determine that a specific news article is fake news, will the new disputed tag will have attached to it and displayed in the users’ news feeds. Additionally, users looking to share a disputed story will be once more warned about its false content before doing so.
While any measure to combat the spread of misinformation is welcomed, the fact that the entire review process can take up to a few days means that the unverified fake news story has more than enough time to make its rounds on the platform, collect the shares and clicks it needs, before actually fizzing out of people’s interest.
This disputed tag system is the only viable way for Facebook to avoid staying politically neutral, reinforcing the idea that it’s not a media company and thus avoiding full responsibility for its shared content. Faster action would imply a stronger type of censorship that will surely lead to a contentious debate, which Facebook seems to want to avoid.
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