Facebook tries fighting fake news with publisher info button on links

Josh Constine

Facebook thinks showing Wikipedia entries about publishers and additional Related Articles will give users more context about the links they see. So today it's beginning a test of a new "i" button on News Feed links that opens up an informational panel.  "People have told us that they want more information about what they're reading" Facebook product manager Sara Su tells TechCrunch. "They want better tools to help them understand if an article is from a publisher they trust and evaluate if the story itself is credible."

This box will display the start of a Wikipedia entry about the publisher, which could help people know if it's a reputable, long-standing source of news...or a newly set up partisan or satire site. It will also display info from their Facebook Page even if that's not who shared the link, data on how the link is being shared on Facebook, and a button to follow the news outlet's Page.

Meanwhile, the button will also unveil Related Articles or Trending information if the article is popular or suspected of being fake news. This could show people alternate takes on the same topic, which might dispute the original article or provide more perspective. Previously Facebook only showed Related Articles occasionally and immediately revealed them on links without an extra link.

The changes are part of Facebook big, ongoing initiative to improve content integrity
Of course, whenever Facebook shows more information, it creates more potential vectors for misinformation. "This work reflects feedback from our community, including publishers who collaborated on the feature development as part of the Facebook Journalism Project" says Su.

When asked about the risk of the Wikipedia entries that are pulled in having been doctored with false information, a Facebook spokesperson told me "Vandalism on Wikipedia is a rare and unfortunate event that is usually resolved quickly. We count on Wikipedia to quickly resolve such situations and refer you to them for information about their policies and programs that address vandalism."

And to avoid distributing fake news, Facebook says Related Articles will "be about the same topic — and will be from a wide variety of publishers that regularly publish news content on Facebook that get high engagement with our community."

Getting this right is especially important after the fiasco this week when Facebook's Safety Check for the tragic Las Vegas mass-shooting pointed people to fake news.

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