Facebook cracks down on hoax posts with a dash of crowdsourcing

Facebook will rely on users to flag content that's a hoax. With the move Facebook avoids a censorship pickle, but could raise a few more issues.

In its latest effort to clean up its News Feed, Facebook said that it will add features that make it easier to report hoaxes. In the process, Facebook is taking on a tricky balancing act.

Facebook said in a blog post that it has been researching ways to curb misleading news due to user requests. An update to the News Feed cuts the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes.

The social networking giant did note that it isn't removing those stories reported as false, reviewing content or making any judgments. Facebook defines a hoax as spam that includes scams, report news that's misleading and generate lots of comments largely noting the content is fake.

In a nutshell, the News Feed gives you a false story option when you remove a story from your feed. Facebook will aggregate how many times a post has been labeled false. Facebook also indicated that "the vast majority of publishers on Facebook will not be impacted by this update."

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Facebook also added that its testing has showed that people don't report satire or humor if it's clearly labeled.

The intentions here are fine, but you have to wonder how many people will think about gaming Facebook's system. How many unfavorable news stories will be deemed a hoax based on groups? Consider these possibilities:

  • Climate change stories could be labeled as hoaxes.
  • Evolution articles.
  • Science.
  • Any political story with a pol you don't like.
  • Anything that you may disagree with could be deemed a hoax by a group of people.

Crowdsourcing the hoax watch gets Facebook out of a potential censorship pickle. But Facebook's move will be one interesting experiment to watch.

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