Fake news isn’t just damaging for the web, it has real-world consequences and has been linked with various events including, most notably, Trump’s election win.
But while the politicians work out their positioning, more nimble organisations, such as the social media companies it directly affects, have made changes to their services. In April, Facebook announced it is taking the fight against fake news to its users. It has created a prompt used in 14 countries that directs users to a guide on how to spot fake news. The move is first time Facebook has directly addressed fake news in the UK and follows trials of flagging and reporting tools for fake news in Germany and the USA. Meanwhile, Google has introduced a search label in every country in the world that shows when an article has been fact-checked.
Much of the work to highlight fake news is being underpinned by fact checking organisations. For its advice to users, Facebook has consulted with UK fact-checking group Full Fact. Separately, Full Fact has launched its own toolkit that explains how to identify made-up stories and is part of a group of 115 fact checkers Google has worked with.
“One of the solutions to fake news is that people do need to be asking questions of themselves and it is really helpful for Facebook to prompt people to do that,” Will Moy, director of Full Fact, told WIRED.
In a blog post, Facebook’s Adam Mosseri, the vice president of News Feed, added that Facebook is concentrating on three areas around the issue. These are: trying to stop those creating fake news stories to garner clicks and advertising revenue; building products to stop the spread of false news; and helping people make more informed decisions.
Google says the “amount of content confronting people online can be overwhelming” and it sees its responsibility as helping to highlight what is trustworthy.
However, Moy said there is still a long way to go for Facebook and other companies to properly tackle the issue of fake news. “There’s a next step that we would like to see Facebook ask itself: ‘Can it help users answer some of these questions more easily?'”
Some of the most basic advice? Check the URL. For example, if not looked at closely W1RED.co.uk could be mistaken for this website. “This is the sort of thing Facebook might be able to make easier in future,” said Moy.
Facebook’s and Full Fact’s tips for spotting fake news
Both Facebook and Full Fact have produced guides to spotting fake news online. Full Fact says its guide is suitable for children and has been shown on the CBBC channel.
Be skeptical of headlines: False headlines often have multiple WORDS in capital LETTERS and exclamation marks!!!
Investigate the source: Make sure the publisher of the story is reputable and produces accurate stories
Look for mistakes: Fake news articles aren’t always edited and written with the same quality as those from professional news outlets
Check the URL: Domain names are available to purchase by anyone and they can be made to look like an existing website.
Is it satire? Let’s be honest almost everyone has been fooled by The Onion once.
Consider the photos: Images and videos can be edited and manipulated and taken out of context. A reverse image search can help to find their source.
Check the dates: In deliberately false stories time sequences may appear out of order and difficult to follow.
Double check: Almost all stories get covered by multiple news outlets. If many are reporting the same facts it is more likely the story is true.
Looking for more tips? Check Full Fact’s toolkit for more details.