After taking criticism for months for not doing enough to curb the spread of fake news, Facebook finally introduced a feature this week that will “dispute” the authenticity of hoax content.
In one example noticed by Gizmodo, a fake story is spreading on Facebook from “The Seattle Tribune,” a purveyor of viral click bait content, claiming Donald Trump’s Android phone has been hacked and information from it is leaking to the press. Facebook has tagged the story with a blaring red icon, noting that it’s veracity is disputed by Snopes.com and PolitiFact. Of course, as Recode points out, it’s troubling that Facebook won’t take the step on its own of declaring content false. Instead, it tip-toes around the issue by merely pointing out that other organisations have found a story’s legitimacy doubtful.
It will be a slow process to actually mark stories with the “Disputed News” tag once they have been reported. Facebook employees will need to sift through all reports and decide which stories to send on to independent fact-checking organisations. And even when a story is flagged, it can still be shared, though the site will likely issue a heads-up warning to users before they do, and force the content further down the News Feed.
As many experts have pointed out, the real question is why Facebook has so much control over content in the first place.
“Perhaps the premise itself is flawed,” Hudson Hongo wrote in Gizmodo. “Instead of wondering what Facebook is doing about fake news, maybe we should ask why we largely trust a single website to decide what is and isn’t worth seeing online.”
This is certainly a step in the right direction, but Facebook still has a long way to go to conquer the problem of fake news once and for all.