Fake news has become a huge menace for social media, given the barrage of information flooding such sites. Social networking giant Facebook has therefore launched an initiative to tackle this. A new feature has been launched on the platform to help its user spot fake news and misleading information doing the rounds on the website.

The feature is a notification which will pop up for a few days. One click on the notification will take the user to another window that contains all the tips and tricks a person can use in order to spot false information in an article and what should be done about it.

The directives in the feature will include tips like rechecking the website address and see if it is actually a parody of a real website. Another rule tells the user to read the ‘about section’ of the website from where s/he is reading the news as that might reveal what the website is trying to tell.

This step is part of Facebook’s broader to eradicate fake news from the website which came into attention during the recently held US Presidential election.

Fake news is harmful for the reader. Some stories about miracles and aliens might not be dangerous but in one of the incidents, an internet rumour led a gunman to fire a weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December

Facebook has been “working very hard to figure out how to get their arms wrapped around this”, said Lucy Dalglish, journalism dean at the University of Maryland, reported LA Times. “Facebook was always very interested [in] technology but not the social and civic implications of technology. It’s like they have become citizens.”

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She appreciated the company for reaching out to various stakeholders like researchers, academicians and NPO journalism organisations to develop the programme. Facebook is also collaborating with fact-checking and media organizations that are working outside the networking site to identify false news. And once identified, the company is trying to empty the “economic incentives” of false news sites by not letting them buy ads on Facebook.

However, this idea is not fullproof. Michael Connor, executive director of Open MIC, a non-profit organization, says, “It’s not a bad step (about the new notifications). But it’s at least a year late and it’s likely that very few people will heed the advice provided. More importantly, it hardly addresses the underlying problem. Until Facebook finds ways to curb the folks who are generating false news and misinformation, steps like this are really only window-dressing.”

But Robert Quigley, who teaches a social media journalism course at the University of Texas at Austin is of the opinion that Facebook is the No. 1 vehicle for problems with news literacy. “They’re trying to solve it. I don’t know how many people are going to read these notifications, but it’s good they’re making an effort. I don’t think even Facebook would say this is the answer. It’s more of a piece of the puzzle,” said Quigley.

The feature has been launched in 14 countries currently, including US, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brazil.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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