INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- The fight against fake news is getting a new ally: Facebook.
The social media platform has launched a new tool to help users spot fake news and report it.
But how effective will this be? Some experts say it’s a step in the right direction.
Part of the problem is social media platforms are designed to show you things the site thinks you want to see and that can cause people to fall victim to misinformation.
“This is one of those initiatives where they’re trying to help people learn how to defend themselves,” said Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics at Indiana University. He has been studying the fake news phenomenon for years, long before it became a hot topic during last year’s election. His work focuses on how social media can be used to sway people’s opinions and beliefs by using misinformation.
“It’s good for people to be skeptical and learn to recognize when they’re seeing misinformation,” said Menczer.
Facebook’s new feature uses established fact checking organizations to alert users to stories that might not be true. The goal is pretty simple: to get users to stop for just a moment before sharing something and question what they’re actually reading.
“Sometimes it might take literally a second or two for people to think that there’s something fishy about it,” said Menczer.
It’s a daunting prospect, especially because most social media is designed to show you things it thinks you’re interested in seeing, even if it’s false information cloaked as fact.
“People don’t believe everything they read, but they do believe things that seem aligned with their preexisting opinions,” said Menczer.
The success of the new feature ultimately depends on you, being informed enough to decide what’s real and what’s not.
“There are so many people that even if a percentage of them does it, that’s a positive step,” said Menczer.
Facebook isn’t alone in this effort. Google has also rolled out a similar feature to help people figure out which news articles are fake and which are legit.