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Facebook’s efforts to stop fake news are actually making it easier to spread fake news

Published Jan 16th, 2018 2:56PM EST
Facebook Fake News
Image: Shutterstock

Facebook is trying to fix its “fake news” problem that gained prominence after the 2016 US presidential election. But it’s far from actually winning the battle, as the fake news phenomenon continues to be a worldwide problem. A new report highlights one of Facebook’s new efforts meant to remove news posts that might include fake entries from users’ News Feeds. It turns out that the new program isn’t working well at all, and it might actually make it easier than it used to be to spread fake news.

In a new report, The New York Times details Facebook’s Explore feature that was introduced last fall in six countries. The Explore program should offer readers only news, whereas the News Feed would be populated by posts from friends and family. The Explore program should not be confused with a similar program Facebook announced earlier this week, which will result in less news hitting the News Feed in favor of content from friends.

The problem with the pilot program is that it still propagates fake news, and the best example comes from Slovakia, one of the countries included in the trial. Here’s The NYT’s account of the story:

A bogus news story […] claimed that a Muslim man had thanked a good Samaritan for returning his lost wallet, and had warned the Samaritan of a terrorist attack that was planned at a Christmas market.

The fabricated story circulated so widely that the local police issued a statement saying it wasn’t true. But when the police went to issue the warning on Facebook, they found that the message — unlike the fake news story they meant to combat — could no longer appear on News Feed because it came from an official account.

That’s hilarious, but also quite sad. Imagine all the people who believed it and never had access to the police’s report on the matter. The program is also live in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Serbia where similar fake news problems exist.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.