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Debunked Fake News Still Being Shared Despite Facebook’s Promises

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By Kenneth White

At the Global FactChecking Summit in June, Facebook announced they would be delivering data surrounding their new strategies to combat misinformation and fake news on their platform. Using online tools to analyze data, Poynter.org set out to explore two websites known for spreading fake news (YourNewsWire and InfoWars) in the context of reviewing the results of Facebook’s revised policies. The policy involved having 25 fact-checking outlets from 14 countries flag specific links and stories which should, by Facebook’s accounting, decrease their reach by 80 percent. Punitive measures are then levied against any site regularly publishing fake news through a number of means, including demonetization and limiting the reach of their pages. The system also alerts users to related fact checks before they share a suspected link.

Some pages, such as the satire site ‘Last Line of Defense’, have seen their monetization drop dramatically in alignment with Facebook’s policy revision, while outlying and more obscure content with a viral quality have helped InfoWars and YourNewsWire continue to remain robust on Facebook. These odd posts are often ignored as a blip on the radar of fact-checking organizations, but the sharing activity around these ‘one-off’ stories results in high traffic that leads back to the suspected fake news publishers pages, with little or no consequences meted out. The central tenet of reacting to posts rather than pages has a number of organizations questioning the efficacy of these policies, as well.

Fact-checkers have related to Poynter in the past that, while the partnership is helpful, they have their doubts about the ability to scale given the amount of misinformation that published daily on Facebook. Poynter’s analysis raised the issue that a wide number of posts whose content was debunked on sites like FactCheck.org and Snopes, were not flagged in the Facebook system and the content was still shareable. Both FactCheck and Snopes are part of the 25 fact-checking outlets. And in fact, after reading the fine print, there’s nothing in Facebook’s anti-misinformation policies that allows for the suspension of a page for repeatedly publishing fake news — it doesn’t violate its community standards. It has been noted that a barrier to engagement by the fact-checkers has been the Facebook interface for reporting false stories.

Requests for comment to InfoWars were not replied to, but YourNewsWire said of Poynter.org that it represents “a threat to freedom of speech and democracy”.

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