Facebook has been blamed by many for its complicity in the explosion of “fake news” during the recent election campaign, a phenomenon that some say helped Donald Trump take the Oval Office. After initially dismissing the issue, Mark Zuckerberg has talked more recently about taking concrete steps to attack the problem.
One step that Facebook (FB) is taking is to alter the way its “Trending Topics” section works in order to try and keep fake news items from moving up that leaderboard, which sits in the upper right-hand section of every user’s page. The change was announced on Wednesday in a blog post.
Instead of ranking topics based purely on the number of people sharing, liking, or commenting on them, Facebook says it will now look at whether those topics or stories are also being covered by a wide range of other publishers and media outlets. The company said it hopes this will reduce the likelihood of having an article from a fake-news website dominating the trending topics.
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In addition to some of the fact-checking features that Facebook announced recently—which include integrating with the work being done by organizations like Politifact—this is a good step towards improving the environment for news on the social network.
To Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s credit, once he agrees that something is a problem, he usually moves swiftly to try and fix it. Let’s hope that he intends to follow through on his promises as far as fake news goes, because we will all be better off. And with Google (GOOG) also taking action to cut off advertising access for such sites, things may be looking up on the fake news front.