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Facebook announces measures to debunk mounting fake news

By Doug G. Ware

MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Social network Facebook on Thursday outlined four new ways it's fighting the issue of fake news and hoaxes on its site, which has been a popular topic in recent weeks.

The company said it has been evaluating ways to fight faux news posing as legitimate stories.

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"We're approaching this problem carefully," Facebook said in a blog post Thursday. "We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations."

Four new measures in the fight include an easier reporting protocol, flagging suspect stories, informed sharing and mitigating financial incentives for spammers.

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To report a fake news piece, users can find the appropriate button in the post's upper right hand menu. In an effort to make flagging easier, Facebook said it will send user-disputed stories to third-party fact-checking organizations.

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"If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why," Facebook said. "Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed."

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A main focus of the effort will be deterring spammers.

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"We've found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads," the company stated. " So we're doing several things to reduce the financial incentives.

"On the buying side we've eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.

"It's important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful. We're excited about this progress, but we know there's more to be done. We're going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right."

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Fake news has been a popular issue in recent weeks, particularly as it related to last month's presidential election.

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