Facebook's ramping up its fake news fight ahead of the General Election... in print

Lynsey Barber
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Print adverts advising on how to spot fake news appeared in UK papers

Facebook has unveiled the latest weapon in its fight against fake news: a medium it's been criticised for helping to destroy...

As the country hurtles towards a General Election, the tech giant has taken out print adverts in several national newspapers with advice on how to spot fake news. It also said it's removed thousands of fake accounts in the UK.

The ad offers information already given online by both Facebook and FullFact, appearing directly in users' timelines. It includes suggestions such as looking closely at URLs, keeping an eye on unusual formatting, the use of all capital letters in headlines and the use of exclamation marks.

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Print ads appeared in the Telegraph, Times, Metro and Guardian

Described as educational adverts, this is the latest action taken by the platform which has come under pressure over the spread of false information in the wake of high stakes elections.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we. That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news," said Facebook's UK director of policy Simon Milner.

Efforts to remove accounts which spread false information were announced last month, resulting in thousands of accounts in the UK being removed, Facebook added today.

It will also introduce a new element to its algorithms which govern the news feed of UK users. The company said:

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We’ve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way.

In December, we started to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it. We're now expanding the test to the UK.

It follows the roll-out of similar features in Germany and France, where elections are also taking place.

Facebook's top bosses have downplayed the scale of the problem, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg insisting last year that "99 per cent of what you see on Facebook is authentic". He and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have both maintained it is a platform and not a publisher, and should not be the "arbiter of truth".

But it is now making greater efforts to tackle the spread of disinformation, also making changes to trending topics and letting users flag questionable content amid growing political pressure.

MPs launched an inquiry into the issue at the start of the year, raising concerns fake news is "a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general". And in Germany lawmakers have threatened Facebook, Twitter and Google with fines for failing to tackle fake news and offensive content.

Facebook said last week it will hire 3,000 extra staff to review content following the live streaming of murders on the platform.

In the run up to the General Election it will also announce further details on the fact checking partnership with Full Fact and First Draft, along with Google and newsrooms.

Milner added:

We have developed new ways to identify and remove fake accounts that might be spreading false news so that we get to the root of the problem.

To help people spot false news we are showing tips to everyone on Facebook on how to identify if something they see is false. We can't solve this problem alone so we are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organisations, so they can independently assess facts and stories.

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