Facebook adding a feature to curb fake news

This file photo taken on Dec 28, 2016, shows logos of US online social media and social networking service Facebook.
This file photo taken on Dec 28, 2016, shows logos of US online social media and social networking service Facebook. PHOTO: AFP

Facebook is working on a better algorithm to detect and reduce the spread of false news, including an upcoming feature that indicates how long a publication or post has been around, said the social media network's head of News Feed, Mr Adam Mosseri.

In an interview with The Straits Times at Facebook's office here, Mr Mosseri - who is among those in the firm spearheading its battle against fake news - outlined the broad scope of measures being taken to stem the spread of dubious content.

On the latest feature, he said: "We have been experimenting with the feature... It would be useful to know that a publication has been around for only four days."

Facebook was widely criticised for allowing fake content to flourish on its network during the presidential election in the United States. The current push and Mr Mosseri's visit here comes as Singapore ramps up its own efforts to battle fake news even as broadband use and speeds here keep increasing.

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While Facebook refrains from taking down posts in response to public or government pressure, exceptions are made when posts promote terrorism or hatred, or come from fake accounts. When it does act, however, it does so discreetly. One example is a fake Facebook community page "Salleh for President", which was taken down on Wednesday after presidential hopeful Salleh Marican complained to Facebook. Facebook said it did not take down the page, but did not want to reveal how it responded to the complaint.

Singapore website Mothership ran an article attributing the information from the page to Mr Salleh, but it later apologised for wrongfully disseminating the fake news.

Facebook has also been working closely with fact-checkers like Snopes and Politifact to experiment with the use of "disputed by snopes.com" tags in posts.

Irene Tham

Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that Facebook took down the fake Facebook page "Salleh for President", which disappeared from the social network last week. Facebook has clarified that it did not remove the page, but did not elaborate on actions it took.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook adding a feature to curb fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe