Facebook Moving to Reduce ‘Fake News’

14 April, 2017

Facebook is removing the accounts of people who use its social media program to send out "fake news" stories.

Facebook's security team said it found people who use their real names "act responsibly." But it said people who use false names are the ones most likely to post fake stories.

Facebook is also canceling 30,000 fake accounts in France.

The company said it is removing fake accounts with the most "traffic" to limit misinformation before the country's presidential election.

The election will take place on April 23. A second vote between the top candidates is planned for May 7 if no candidate gains a majority in April's election.

One way Facebook says it hopes to remove fake accounts is by looking for people who repeatedly post the same information. Facebook also looks for users who increase their messaging on Facebook's messaging system.

A young California woman takes a look at Facebook in this file photo.
A young California woman takes a look at Facebook in this file photo.

Facebook was criticized for having "fake" stories on its service during the final three months of the 2016 American presidential election.

Professors Hunt Allcott of New York University and Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University in California released a research paper on the issue last month.

They found fake stories were shared more often on Facebook than reports from news agencies such as NBC News, the New York Times and Washington Post. They said most of the fake news posted on Facebook favored Trump, who defeated Clinton in the November presidential election.

"Our database contains 115 pro-Trump fake stories that were shared on Facebook a total of 30 million times, and 41 pro-Clinton fake stories shared a total of 7.6 million times," the professors wrote.

One of the most popular false reports was a story that Democrat Hillary Clinton sold weapons to Islamic State militants. Another was that Pope Francis endorsed Republican Donald Trump, the news website BuzzFeed said.

As of December 2016, Facebook said it had 1.23 billion daily active users worldwide.

Shabnam Shaik is Technical Program Manager on the Protect and Care Team at Facebook.

In a statement, he said Facebook is improving its systems "to make it easier to respond to reports of abuse," and to cancel "fake accounts and prevent accounts from being compromised."

Not everyone is pleased by Facebook's new security efforts. Some comments about Shaik's announcement raised questions.

One user, whose first name is Deb, said: "I would really like to believe you, but I have reported many fake accounts and fake news stories only to be told that the account doesn't violate community standards."

I'm John Russell.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English based on reports from the Associated Press, Facebook, and joint research by New York University and Stanford University. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on 51VOA.COM. How do you try to figure out what is true and what is false on social media?


Words in This Story

fake - adj. not true or real

post - v. to add a message or information to an online message board

account - n. someone who signed up to use a service

database - n. a collection of pieces of information that is organized and used on a computer

respond - v. to do something as a reaction to something that has happened or been done

standard - n. a level of quality that is considered acceptable