The ‘fake news’ fight: Facebook steps up its gameThe ‘fake news’ fight: Facebook steps up its game

The ‘fake news’ fight: Facebook steps up its game

Written by Joanna Carter on 21st Jul 2017

Facebook is taking steps to combat fake news following the social network coming under fire following the US election. The social media platform has been accused of allowing fake news to be shared throughout the campaign season, possibly impacting the overall results. It was accused of similar when it came to the UK snap election, with articles shared on Facebook being said to have influenced voters with incorrect information.

The problem with fake news

As a result, the term ‘fake news’ has been bandied about a lot recently, with people using it to describe everything from satire to clickbait, as well as news articles that seem to have no proof to their claims. While articles from the Daily Mash are obviously satirical and so shared for the humour rather than people believing they’re true, some news stories seem like they could be true – although without proof – and are simply spreading incorrect information.

Usually, news like this comes with a compelling headline and description – both of which sometimes don’t actually relate to what the article actually says. The fact that they seem to have an element of truth means that social media users are more likely to share them, with platforms giving the links equal weighting to true news without factoring in the trustworthiness of the source. This has been a particular issue when it comes to Facebook.

While the social media platform has attempted to combat the rise of fake news in recent months, even going so far as to print ads in newspapers listing ten ways to spot fake news and deleting thousands of UK accounts, it has been called on to do more. This has led to its most recent change, which affects how posted links appear.

The latest change

Previously, when a Facebook page posted a link, it was able to change the headline, body text and image that showed up in the preview on people’s News Feeds. This meant that pages could make it look like an article was about something completely different or share links from reputable sources with fake headlines and story previews in a bid to give weight to fake claims. While this function did allow news outlets to offer tailored posts to specific audiences, there has been a rise in the number of pages taking advantage of the ability to change previews.

In response to this, Facebook is disabling pages’ ability to alter the previews of links that they post in the API or Page composer. While certain original publishers will still be able to edit previews, they will need to specify any domains they own and have these authorised by Facebook in order to do so.

Pages that want to maintain their ability to edit previews will need to go to the Link Ownership tab under Page Publishing Tools in order to submit domains. This will need to be done by September 12th, which is the date from which all unauthorised preview editing will be stopped automatically by Facebook.

Links that get shared after this, will use the default page title and meta description that is set for each article. In the instance that Open Graph meta tags are set up, Facebook will draw the featured image, page title and meta description from this instead. Open Graph tags will still be able to be changes, while articles will also be able to be tested using the Open Graph Debugger in order to find the best way to configure default page previews on the social platform.

This means that meta descriptions and tags are more important than ever and publishers should ensure that all articles and pages have them set up correctly to ensure previews give the best idea possible of what the link leads to. Failing to do this could impact overall traffic to a site, as well as the shareability of content on Facebook.

While the change won’t stop the sharing of links that lead to fake news stories, it should ensure that accurate previews are available to Facebook users and cut down on clickbait.

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