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Facebook tackles a persistent problem: users sharing old news

June 25, 2020, 7:08 PM UTC

Facebook plans to warn users when they’re about to share old news articles, a frequent problem on the service that can lead to others misunderstanding current events.

Users who click the share button on an article that is more than 90 days old will see a message asking whether they want to continue. The idea is to give users who may be unaware of the article’s age a heads-up while also giving them the ability to go ahead and share it if they want.

“Over the past several months, our internal research found that the timeliness of an article is an important piece of context that helps people decide what to read, trust, and share,” said John Hegeman, vice president of Feed and Stories at Facebook. “News publishers in particular have expressed concerns about older stories being shared on social media as current news, which can misconstrue the state of current events.”

Facebook had previously tried to address news literacy by introducing a button in 2018 that shows users more information about the publisher of article, helping them determine its credibility. The new notification goes a step further by helping users understand the timeliness of an article. 

The new feature comes as Facebook tries to tackle misinformation on its service, something it has struggled with for years. As part of the fight, the company hired third-party fact-checkers three years ago to review articles on the site and flags those that may be sources of misinformation. 

Facebook said it also plans to test other notifications over the next few months. For example, it’s considering a pop-up that would appear when users click on links about the coronavirus. Those notifications would provide users with more details about the source and direct them to Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center, which provides content from credible health authorities. 

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