Facebook makes changes in its ongoing attempt to limit misinformation

Facebook is doing a lot of little things to try to address its bigger problems.On Wednesday, the company announced more than a dozen updates about how...

Posted: Apr 11, 2019 8:04 AM

Facebook is doing a lot of little things to try to address its bigger problems.

On Wednesday, the company announced more than a dozen updates about how it is addressing misinformation and other problematic content on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. To promote the various efforts, the company held a four-hour long event at its Menlo Park headquarters for around 20 reporters where employees for various Facebook products recapped changes and answered questions.

For years, Facebook has grappled with the spread of controversial content on its platform, such as misinformation about elections, anti-vaccination stories, violence and hate speech.

Facebook has been trying to remove things faster that are against its rules, and "reduce" the spread of content that doesn't explicitly violate its policies, but is still troublesome, such as clickbait and misinformation.

"We don't remove information from Facebook just because it's false. We believe we have to strike a balance," Facebook's VP of integrity Guy Rosen said at the event. "When it comes to false information by real people, we aim to reduce distribution and provide context."

For example, Facebook said it will lessen the reach of groups that often share misinformation. When users in a group frequently share content that has been deemed false by Facebook's third-party fact checkers, that group's content will be pushed lower in News Feed so fewer people see it.

There will also be a "click-gap" signal, which will affect a link's position in the News Feed. With this feature, Facebook hopes to reduce the spread of websites that are disproportionately popular on Facebook compared to other parts of the web.

It is working with experts to identify new ways to combat fake news on the platform. The Associated Press is expanding the work it does for Facebook's independent fact-checking program, too.

The company has frequently described its issues with problematic content as "adversarial." In the company's framing, it is fighting an enemy that learns and changes tactics. The bundle of changes it announced on Wednesday are its newest weapons.

Facebook policy bans content that it determines can result in "imminent physical violence." Employees on Wednesday defended its decision to not ban all misinformation or anti-vaccination content on its products.

"When it comes to thinking about harm, it is really hard ... to draw a line between a piece of content and something that happens to people offline," said Tessa Lyons, Facebook's head of News Feed integrity.

She said some of the posts that appeared to be anti-vaccination involved people asking questions, seeking information and having conversations around the topic.

"There is a tension between enabling expression and discourse and conversation, and ensuring that people are seeing authentic and accurate information. We don't think that one private company should be making decisions about what information can or cannot be shared online," she said.

Renee Murphy, principal analyst at research firm Forrester who covers security and risk, said that while Facebook's steps are positive, they don't do nearly enough to address some of its larger problems.

"Part of me says 'awesome [this content] wont go as far as it used to," she said. "The other part says 'I have no trust in any of this.' At the end of the day, what is any of this going to do? How will they manage it?"

Facebook is also trying to be more transparent with users about how and why it makes decisions. As part of the effort, the company is adding a new section to its Community Standards website where users can see the updates Facebook makes to its policies every month.

Another update lets users remove comments and other content they posted to a Facebook Group after they leave it.

Meanwhile, Facebook-owned Instagram is trying to squash the spread of inappropriate posts that don't violate its policies. For example, a sexually suggestive photo would still pop up in a feed if a user follows that account, but it may no longer be recommended for the Explore Page or in pages for hashtags.

Facebook also announced a few updates to its chat service Messenger, including a Facebook verified badge that would show up in chats to help fight scammers who impersonate public figures.

Another tool called the Forward Indicator will pop up in Messenger when a message is forwarded by the sender. WhatsApp, another Facebook-owned app, has a similar function, which is part of an effort to stop the spread of misinformation. WhatsApp has had major issues with viral hoax messages spreading on the platform, which have resulted in more than a dozen lynchings in India.

Forrester's Murphy believes the company should do more to address major issues such as violence being livestreamed and going viral on the platform. Last month, a suspected terrorist was able to stream live video to Facebook of a mass murder in New Zealand. The company said its AI systems failed to catch the video, and it took down 1.5 million videos of the attack in the first 24 hours.

"They have bigger problems. I'm sure [these updates] will help sometimes, but there are bigger problems at foot," she said. "Facebook has a lot more to do."

Huntsville
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 59°
Florence
Broken Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 59°
Fayetteville
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 57°
Decatur
Overcast
58° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 58°
Scottsboro
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 247587

Reported Deaths: 3131
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36376562
Davidson31748337
Knox1273889
Rutherford11893114
Hamilton11758109
Williamson710256
Sumner6114110
Wilson469059
Putnam444056
Montgomery421756
Out of TN407935
Madison378079
Sullivan376346
Bradley358723
Washington347651
Sevier335122
Blount334336
Maury330737
Robertson261441
Hamblen246448
Tipton236723
Dyer223732
Unassigned22063
Gibson216244
Hardeman189833
Coffee189425
Obion178822
Trousdale17758
Greene175052
Bedford170920
Fayette169225
Dickson169119
Anderson168814
McMinn164036
Loudon162311
Lawrence161820
Cumberland161025
Wayne16007
Weakley156126
Carter155633
Jefferson155521
Monroe146228
Warren143910
Lauderdale143617
Henderson141626
Hardin139720
Macon134325
Roane13027
Franklin129519
Haywood129527
Overton122717
Hawkins120925
White118814
Johnson11507
Carroll114826
Marshall113810
McNairy112927
Rhea111118
Cheatham106011
Cocke105814
Campbell103012
Bledsoe10174
Smith99113
Lake9853
Giles96936
Fentress91611
Lincoln8973
Crockett86820
Hickman80315
Henry79611
Marion7739
Chester73214
DeKalb73217
Decatur66311
Grainger6114
Grundy57011
Union5433
Claiborne5266
Polk51113
Jackson4525
Humphreys4504
Morgan4437
Houston42017
Benton4199
Unicoi4183
Cannon4152
Clay40613
Lewis4033
Scott3845
Sequatchie3462
Stewart33111
Meigs3276
Perry3082
Pickett2747
Moore2692
Van Buren2071
Hancock1193

Community Events