Facebook is Trying to Curb Misinformation and So Should You — Here’s How

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg posted about a new Facebook policy to help prevent hoaxes and misinformation from taking over his social media platform.  In it, he detailed what steps Facebook is taking to prevent the rampant sharing of misinformation that has become commonplace, resulting in a very lucrative cash flow for writers and websites who pretty much just make shit up all day.

Today we’re making it easier to report hoaxes, and if many people report a story, then we’ll send it to third-party fact checking organizations. If the fact checkers agree a story is a hoax, you’ll see a flag on the story saying it has been disputed, and that story may be less likely to show up in News Feed. You’ll still be able to read and share the story, but you’ll now have more information about whether fact checkers believe it’s accurate. No one will be able to make a disputed story into an ad or promote it on our platform.

We’ve also found that if people who read an article are significantly less likely to share it than people who just read the headline, that may be a sign it’s misleading. We’re going to start incorporating this signal into News Feed ranking.

These steps will help make spreading misinformation less profitable for spammers who make money by getting more people to visit their sites. And we’re also going to crack down on spammers who masquerade as well-known news organizations.

Is it too little too late? For Trump-loathers like me, yeah, a bit.  A policy like this could have been great over the past year, suppressing the popularity of fake news stories written by professional hoaxers like Paul Horner.  Horner could be right when he admits he was one of the people responsible for Donald Trump winning the election last month.

While Facebook is doing what they can to inhibit the virality of hoaxes on their platform, every single user should be doing the same.  If the election of a narcissistic idiot isn’t evidence enough that misinformation is damaging to the future of our nation, then you’re part of the problem.  So before sharing an article on social media, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Read it.  So many articles are shared before reading. It may very well be that the article you’re sharing is satire (without you realizing it), an easily discounted hoax (once you read it), or so old it’s no longer relevant.  Just applying your own critical thinking skills to what you’re reading in the body of an article will often identify red flags and cause you to justifiably label it as bullshit.
  2. Fact-check it.  This is much easier than you think.  Google it.  If the topic only exists on third-party “news sites” you’ve never heard of, or only on sites loaded with huge clickbait ads, chances are it’s not true.  Run it through a fact-checking website like snopes.com, or, if you’ve bought into the “Snopes is a tool of the left and can’t be trusted” nonsense, then check out any of the sites listed here.
  3. Add your own commentary.  Don’t just share the link and let it speak for itself.  We’ve become a society of instant gratification and impatience.  As a result, most people only read the headline unless you spoon feed them more than that.  So point out what you feel is most important about the article you’re sharing by including your thoughts on it or at least a quote from the body of it.  Just sharing a headline doesn’t do much for actual discussion. And in some Facebook groups, it’s grounds for removal.
  4. [BONUS] Call people out.  Ok, this isn’t a tip about sharing, but it’s a call to action to prevent misinformation from spreading.  If you have a friend who clearly isn’t following these rules, call them to task.  Chances are, your comment calling them out will be seen by many who read the headline and would have otherwise believed it, had it not been for you shedding some light.  And the public shame you’ve doled out may make your friend think twice before he or she shares something again without researching it first.  I do this quite often and have lost a couple Facebook friends because if it.  I don’t feel bad about that, because I’ve also been successful in getting people to take down fake news articles.  You win some, you lose some.

Remember kids, only YOU can prevent Trumpster fires.


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

24 thoughts on “Facebook is Trying to Curb Misinformation and So Should You — Here’s How

  1. The only one I disagree about it “call it out.” People who share fake news are extremely resistant to this and distrust every news source.

    How can we “call it out” to people with no interest in differentiating fact from fiction?

    1. It will at least serve to remind such people that their BS will not go uncontested, and may in fact cause them more trouble than they anticipated. I suspect that many of the people who pass on fake news do so as a form of bullying or trolling, and the more people push back against it, the less fun it becomes for them.

      And even if they don’t read any of the counter-arguments you shoot at them, they’ll at least start to understand that the BS they’re spewing isn’t always popular or well-received. And that realization is often the first step toward actually questioning or rethinking one’s own ideas.

      1. And sometimes it helps give others the nerve to also offer a different take on things, to the point that the OP realizes they are not living in a bubble of like minded people. I have at least one FB friend who finally backed off the more ridiculous links and likes once she saw that more than just one or two people spoke up or “liked” another comment. Unfortunately that person is far outnumbered by the ones who literally respond that they do not care whether it is true, as it is a sentiment they like; or that if I do not like what they post I should just scroll on by.

    2. No reason to let them get away with it. They should know we are paying attention, and if they feel the heat enough maybe they’ll stop, or at least curtail their fake news sharing.

  2. Prior to completion of fact-checking, Facebook might consider labeling as “Suspect” links to any news stories from CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc.

        1. I go to PBS, Channel One, Newsweek, Popular Science, Newsela, WND, Smithsonian, CNBC, local tv, and am radio.
          The pain stream news media is slanted propaganda, controlled, and arrogant.

          1. Yup, the same people who kept Hal Lindsey on as a contributor long after his End-Times prophesies failed to even come close to being fulfilled. Their disregard for reality is legendary, and anyone who cites them is either an idiot or a raving Christian bigot.

    1. That is certainly true. Those news sources at one time were objective, professional, and well respected. No more.
      People have seen through their propaganda and arrogance. The people are going to alternative sources.

      1. I disagree. You may not like the attitude of the mainstream media, but the do due diligence in fact-checking and fire people who lie, plagiarize or don’t substantiate their source. Remember Dan Rather? I’d rather have a source that holds itself accountable for errors.

        What do you find arrogant? I really don’t see that.

        One suggestion for a source; the BBC is very good, almost a gold-standard of media.

  3. You can call out a bad story without humiliating the sharer. Fact check it yourself. Comment something like “snopes says nope”. I have had people thank me for catching a careless share. FB could help more. Why couldn’t the just make it I possible to share somethi g you haven’t at least opened?

    1. I was just having a conversation about that on FB the other day with other Patheos writers. It would be great if there was an error message that came up like “Sorry, you can’t share this link because you haven’t read it yet. Please share information responsibly.”

    2. Unfortunately many of the people involved in this crap are true believers. Impossible to talk them out of anything without a lot of time and expense. I did have some luck – once. But not a lot since then.

  4. Unfortunately a lot of stuff that the so-called news media puts out is slanted propaganda. Often they ignore the real news and just talk about their own opinions. The people got fed up with being told what to think.
    There are alternatives to the pain stream news networks. Now the politicians are calling it “fake news”. Well, they’re the ones who are fake. People are dropping the print news and these news networks.

    1. There’s a difference between slanted propaganda and flat-out fabrication.

      People are dropping the print news and these news networks.

      Minor clarification: they’re dropping the stuff they have to pay for, not because they don’t trust it, but because they don’t want to pay for it.

  5. When I see fake news, not only am I calling them out on it, but also adding a link to a site teaching them how to spot fake news, for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know any better.

  6. Thank you for this. I’ve been running my own, small, personal campaign to teach basic fact-checking and encouraging people to check out stuff that shows up in their social-media feeds. Here’s a few ideas to do so:

    Go to the actual site of the story. See if it exists as a real information site. Some of the worst fake-news postings are single-pages that represent themselves as part of a news-site that doesn’t exist. If you can’t find a site for The St. Louis Herald or whatever is supposedly the poster of origin, the posting is fake.

    If the site really exists, check the “about us” page. Any actual credentials will be listed there. So, if you’re following up on a posting about vaccinations, and the site it was originally posted on has no medical credentials listed, it’s almost certainly fake.
    Also, check a couple of other stories on the cite. A site that is overtly biased may or may not have real information, but overtly biased sites are far, far more likely to post anything that furthers their agenda. There’s a reason that the Associated Press is more reputable and credible than Weekly World News. If the site appears to have an overt agenda, the story is more likely to be fake, and should be viewed with suspicion.

    As suggested, google the topic of the posting. If it’s real, it will be reported in more than one place. If you can’t find it anywhere except in your Facebook feed, it’s fake. An editor I worked with in the past explained this in this fashion, “If you have earthshaking news, you have to ask yourself, why isn’t the earth shaking?”

    If a story appears to check out in that appears to be reported on a real information site that appears to have some credibility, pick a few random elements of the story and google them. One fake news story that was circulated dealt with the supposed suicide/murder of an FBI agent that had been investigating Ms. Clinton. In the story it stated that the agent’s body had been found in a hotel that didn’t exist, and the story was supposedly first reported in a newspaper that didn’t exist.

    And, by all means, when you discover good evidence that the posting someone sent you is fake, get back to them with your evidence, and tell them exactly how you debunked their posting. They may listen; at the worst, they’ll stop sending nonsense to you.

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