Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has announced a number of measures it is taking in the UK to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform. Facebook released a statement saying, “These changes help us detect fake accounts on our service more effectively — including ones that are hard to spot.” Facebook’s director of policy in the UK, Simon Milner, said, “We have developed new ways to identify and remove fake accounts that might be spreading false news so that we get to the root of the problem.”
Facebook has been under fire for not quickly responding to complaints about the spread of fake news, hate speech, and extremist content on its platform. Last month, a UK parliamentary committee said the company must do more to combat fake news. Earlier this month, another parliamentary committee urged the government to impose fines on social media platforms for failures to moderate content.
Facebook’s unprecedented reach and power is the core of the issue. The company controls a global distribution platform that has close to two billion active users. No other media outlet has ever come close to such scale.
As part of its initiative in the UK, Facebook has announced that it will be monitoring the repeated posting of the same content or a sharp increase in messaging in order to flag accounts for further scrutiny. Facebook will also take note of whether people share an article they’ve read. The idea is that if people aren’t sharing something they’ve read, it might be because the information is misleading.
The statement from Facebook said, “With these changes, we expect we will also reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.” Facebook has also announced that it has canceled “tens of thousands” of fake accounts across the UK in recent weeks. The purge comes ahead of a general election next month.
The company has also taken out ads in national newspapers in the UK, including The Times, The Telegraph, Metro and The Guardian, to promote tips to help people spot fake news. Facebook does not appear to be running the ads in The Sun and The Daily Mail, two of the UK newspapers with the largest readerships.
Facebook says that it is working with third party fact checking organization Full Fact and with the First Draft organization in the UK to identify misinformation on its platform more quickly. Milner said, “We can’t solve this problem alone so we are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organizations, so they can independently assess facts and stories.”