Three Ways Facebook Could Reduce Fake News Without Resorting To Censorship

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Kristy Hamilton 06 Dec 2016, 22:40

Option 1: Nudging

One option Facebook could adopt involves using existing lists identifying prescreened reliable and fake-news sites. The site could then alert those who want to share a troublesome article that its source is questionable.

One developer, for example, has created an extension to the Chrome browser that indicates when a website you’re looking at might be fake. (He calls it the “B.S. Detector.”) In a 36-hour hackathon, a group of college students created a similar Chrome browser extension that indicates whether the website the article comes from is on a list of verified reliable sites, or is instead unverified.

These extensions present their alerts while people are scrolling through their newsfeeds. At present, neither of these works directly as part of Facebook. Integrating them would provide a more seamless experience, and would make the service available to all Facebook users, beyond just those who installed one of the extensions on their own computer.

The company could also use the information the extensions generate – or their source material – to warn users before they share unreliable information. In the world of software design, this is known as a “nudge.” The warning system monitors user behavior and notifies people or gives them some feedback to help alter their actions when using the software.

This has been done before, for other purposes. For example, colleagues of mine here at Syracuse University built a nudging application that monitors what Facebook users are writing in a new post. It pops up a notification if the content they are writing is something they might regret, such as an angry message with swear words.

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