Facebook introduces tools to combat fake news in Germany

Facebook has said that the features and tools will be coming to other countries soon.

Facebook has introduced new tools to tackle the issue of fake news in Germany. There is a three pronged approach to the problem, empower users to report fake news, verify news sources with third party organisations, and make it difficult for spammers to benefit from sharing misinformation. Facebook has said that the features and tools will be coming to other countries soon.

Users now have an option of reporting a post as a fake news story. External fact checkers can also mark a story as fake. Facebook has tied up with fact checking organisation Correctiv to investigate potential fake news stories. Spammers who try to benefit from pretending to be well known sources, can no longer spoof the identities of established sites. Facebook has committed to being more pro-active in the enforcement of existing content policies.

Posts marked as fake news can still be shared, but a warning appears to readers that the truth content of the story is questionable. The warning message will link to a justification of why the story has been marked as fake, if it is flagged by a fact checking organisation. Posts flagged for fake news will be given less priority by Facebook, and will appear lower in the news feeds of users. Users can message the person who posted directly to alert them about the post, and get an option to block the person.

Facebook has been sued in Germany by a Syrian refugee over malicious spread of misinformation. Anas Modamani, a teenager from Damascus who now works in Berlin clicked a selfie with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The image went viral with fake news stories appearing that Modamani was a terrorist. Fake news stories of Merkel have also spread on the social network. Germany will be holding a federal election towards the end of 2017, and Merkel is one of contestants. Facebook has been criticised for disseminating fake news stories that allegedly influenced the 2016 US presidential election. Facebook has denied the allegation.

Facebook has recently launched the  Facebook Journalism Project, an initiative to engage with the news industry. There are measures to disrupt the financial incentives for spammers. Facebook will also be offering journalists training for using the new tools and services on Facebook. Facebook is also collaborating with The News Literacy Project to increase awareness on how to consume news among readers. A series of public service announcements are being planned by Facebook and The News Literacy Project.

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