Facebook drops disputed flag in war against fake news

Fake and misleading news is a real problem on Facebook. The social media giant has come under heavy criticism for its role in the spread of fake news, and earlier this year, it set out to fix the issue. Some of you may have encountered Facebook's solution over the past year – a disputed flag that accompanies false or misleading links shared on the platform.

A decent amount of work goes into that disputed tag, with Facebook consulting various fact checkers to determine which stories contained false or misleading information. Regardless of that effort, Facebook has announced that it will be dropping the disputed flag from misleading posts as we move into 2018.

That doesn't mean that Facebook is abandoning its fight against fake news, just that it'll be retooling its efforts. The fact checkers will stay, but now instead of giving misleading links a disputed tag, Facebook will surface articles that refute the original's false claims in the "related articles" section that accompanies each post. The move was explained by Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons over on the Facebook Newsroom.

As it turns out, those disputed flags may have been doing harm than good, as Facebook cites research that shows such strong signals can actually entrench people further in their views. Facebook also found that the disputed flag doesn't really cut back on the number of times an article is shared. On the other hand, surfacing articles that debunk the claim of the original's did reduce the number of shares fake and misleading news actually received.

This is one part of a multifaceted effort to fight fake news. Lyons also says that Facebook will soon begin "a new initiative to better understand how people decide whether information is accurate or not based on the news sources they depend upon." Lyons notes that this initiative won't affect your news feed like related articles will, so most of this will take place behind the scenes.

We'll see if these new initiatives will help stem the tide of fake news on Facebook. Facebook probably won't ever be able to squash the fake news problem entirely, but its size and influence as a platform can certainly disincentivize the creation of fake and misleading articles in the first place.