You know those posts your peripheral friends or dubious family members share as fact, like, say, celebrity death hoaxes or videos purportedly featuring Michael Brown beating up an old man? Posts you know are fake but continue being shared as though they are real, until the viral lie becomes the popular truth? Well, Facebook is cracking down on that with a new option that allows users to mark a story as fake in the same way they might mark spam and it should cut down on all the times you’ve had to passive aggressively send people to Snopes.
To reduce the number of these types of posts, News Feed will take into account when many people flag a post as false. News Feed will also take into account when many people choose to delete posts. This means a post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed. This update will apply to posts including links, photos, videos and status updates.
Posts that receive lots of reports will be annotated with a message warning people that many others on Facebook have reported it.
If you immediately heard this and thought “I wonder how long it takes Uncle Steve to mark Onion articles as fake?” Facebook thought about that, too, kind of. They don’t think it will be affected.
We’ve found from testing that people tend not to report satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire. This type of content should not be affected by this update.
The vast majority of publishers on Facebook will not be impacted by this update. A small set of publishers who are frequently posting hoaxes and scams will see their distribution decrease.
Let’s look forward to both an end of these nonsensical fake news stories and an influx of this feature being abused to report science and news stories they don’t agree with.