The latest initiative by Facebook to clean up its News Feed is an attempt to warn users of hoaxes.
The social network announced in a Newsroom post by software engineer Erich Owens and research scientist Udi Weinsberg that Facebook recently added an option for users to report stories as false, adding that those stories will not be removed, and Facebook will not review their content, but distribution of those posts in News Feed will be curtailed, and messages will appear atop those posts indicated the fact that users have reported them as false.
Owens and Weinsberg wrote:
Hoaxes are a form of News Feed spam that includes scams (“Click here to win a lifetime supply of coffee”) or deliberately false or misleading news stories (“Man sees dinosaur on hike in Utah”). People often share these hoaxes and later decide to delete their original posts after they realize they have been tricked. These types of posts also tend to receive lots of comments from friends letting people know this is a hoax, and comments containing links to hoax-busting websites. In fact, our testing found that people are two times more likely to delete these types of posts after receiving such a comment from a friend.
Recently, we added an option for people to report a story they see in News Feed as false. This works in the same way as reporting a story as spam. When you click to hide a story, you also have the option to report the content. Stories that include scams, or deliberately misleading news, are reported two-and-a-half times more often than links to other news stories.
To reduce the number of these types of posts, News Feed will take into account when many people flag a post as false. News Feed will also take into account when many people choose to delete posts. This means a post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed. This update will apply to posts including links, photos, videos and status updates.
Posts that receive lots of reports will be annotated with a message warning people that many others on Facebook have reported it.
Owens and Weinsberg also addressed how this update to News Feed will affect pages, particularly satire sites:
We’ve found from testing that people tend not to report satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire. This type of content should not be affected by this update.
The vast majority of publishers on Facebook will not be impacted by this update. A small set of publishers who are frequently posting hoaxes and scams will see their distribution decrease.
Readers: What are your initial thoughts on the latest update to News Feed?