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Facebook Fake News Detectors are Up and Running, but Need a Bit of Fine-Tuning.

It’s hard to spot a fake nowadays. Counterfeiting is almost as advanced as the ‘real’ manufacturing, and we see products from the Far East legitimately mimicking the real thing within days.

If you check out a Lepin product you’ll find it’s so close to the very Lego product that its been inspired by (I won’t say more than that for fear of treading on any ongoing copyright cases…) that users wouldn’t know the difference, even if half the Lepin and Lego sets’ pieces were swapped.

Knowing, and spotting, a fake comes with experience. If you had only ever seen Lepin and never seen Lego or, maybe, seen an article for this ‘fake-fake’ Landwind (an April Fool’s joke about a new Landwind car, a company already considered to be copying Land Rover), or only ever seen fake designer clothing then you wouldn’t know it was a fake until someone told you. You need to learn what’s real and what isn’t.

Facebook is now trying to do that, but it’s early days. It’s using third party trust-finders like Snopes, and people aren’t too happy about that being the judge, jury and executioner.

Over on Twitter, we found a satirical Facebook post which had fallen victim of this:

The poster was clearly unnerved by the prospect of being labelled a ‘faker’ and so getting penalised by Facebook.

Furthermore, when people checked out his post on Facebook, it had already begun to warn them the content might not be true:

The trouble with all this, of course, is that the post was clearly made in jest, a satirical jibe at CNN, and was on a parody Page.

Entertainment online comes in many forms, and comedy is a massive part of that. If Facebook begins routinely penalising purveyors of parody, hyperbole, satire, sarcasm, irony or general wit then people will simply enjoy their experience of Facebook less – and this will not have been Facebook’s aim, of course. The latest updates to the algorithm are all about making the users’ experience better – we can of course talk for days about all that (and we regularly talk about it in our Sessions and social media workshops).

The network must not inadvertently shield users from these forms of entertainment and instead must respond faster to dispute and remove stories like this :

Fake news story about Anchor Butter

Which was not true and could cause massive damage to the butter brand’s sales, indeed that article shows 92,301 shares in a week.

Facebook has launched its rules about judging the factual merit of a post here and includes a category for ‘Not Eligible’, but for the time being it’s clearly going to be on a steep learning curve. In the meantime, we hope it’ll be relying on people reporting truly fake news and not simply restricting its users’ access to genuine parody.

We’d always advise our clients to post their own content – it’s the best way to know the source of any information is trustworthy. Sharing fake news could hit you hard on Facebook.

Will it start removing Blackadder quotes as they were never genuinely uttered at the time? Or will Back to the Future 2 be frowned upon for showing flying cars and hoverboards in 2015? Does any fictional piece need banning, just in case the reader thinks it was real?

Let’s hope not – I’m clearly taking this to extremes and using hyperbole, so removing that stuff would be preposterous.

Mind you, the idea of CNN genuinely using a washing machine for articles was not deemed too far-fetched…