Facebook deletes tens of thousands of accounts

The social network giant announces big overhaul in crackdown on fake news one month before UK general election.

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica
Facebook is getting serious about fake news as many European nations go to the polls [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

Facebook has deleted “tens of thousands” of accounts and made changes to its newsfeed algorithm in an attempt to battle fake news, responding to criticism over the distribution of false information on its massive network.

Facebook’s tips to spot false news
1. Be sceptical of headlines
2. Look closely at the URL 
3. Investigate the source 
4. Watch for unusual formatting 
5. Consider the photos 
6. Inspect the dates
7. Check the evidence 
8. Look at other reports 
9. Is the story a joke? 
10. Some stories are intentionally false

Facebook has come under intense pressure to tackle the spread of false stories, which came to prominence during the US presidential election last year when many inaccurate posts were widely shared on it and other social media services.

Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France before the first round of its presidential election last month and uses outside fact-checkers in the country.

The UK called snap general elections in June, and Germany is to vote in September.

In the UK, Facebook launched a British newspaper advertising campaign to warn users of the danger of fake news, the latest drive by the social media giant to tackle malicious information before the national election.

With the headline “Tips for spotting false news,” the advertisements listed 10 ways to identify whether a story was genuine or not, including looking closely at a URL, investigating the source, looking for unusual formatting, and considering the authenticity of the photo.

Facebook urged its users in the UK to be sceptical of headlines that look unbelievable and to check other sources before sharing news that may not be credible. It has previously taken out full-page ads in German newspapers to educate readers on how to spot fake news.

The company has been testing technology that identifies if people read an article but do not share it with their friends, which may suggest the story is misleading.

“With these changes, we expect we will also reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts,” Facebook said.

Social media sites – including Twitter and YouTube – are facing pressure in Europe. Germany threatened social media companies with fines as high as $55m for spreading fake news. 

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Source: News Agencies