Unlike your current Twitter feed, Facebook is constantly experimenting with new ways to filter its news feed to make it more relevant and useful to users. This morning, the social network announced it had tweaked its algorithm to ensure that users see less of the online hoaxes which seemingly permeate many a news feed:
“Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook. We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy.”
The two types of posts that will be most obviously affected are scams (“Click here to win a free iPad”) and misleading stories (“Man sees dinosaur on hike in Utah”). While the latter stories aren’t always intended to be harmful, Facebook has found that they are regularly shared by users, only to have friends–you, perhaps–immediately pounce and point out the hoax. The posts are frequently deleted, leading Facebook to realize users didn’t know they were fake stories to begin with.
Facebook recently added a feature to allow users to report stories they believed to be false, with the company defining it as “purposefully fake or deceitful news, [or] a hoax disproved by a reputable source.” Although that option will remain and continue to be useful, today’s update should ensure that fewer of these stories show up in the first place.
But don’t worry, Facebook says, this is just one more “signal” being added to the mix–meaning it shouldn’t be too easy to “game” it by people looking to maliciously hide stories. “News Feed looks at lots of info about a post when determining where it should show up in News Feed, including both positive and negative feedback,” a spokesperson tells Fast Company. “Reporting a story as ‘false’ is another negative signal, similar to reporting a post as spam. Using a range of signals in ranking helps guard against abuse.”
The recent hacks of media Twitter accounts shows just how damaging fake news can be. Let’s hope Facebook does a better job keeping fake news at bay than it does listicles.