Facebook warns users about fake news stories

Irish Facebook users will see notices this week on their personal pages alerting them on how to spot fake news.

The social networking giant says the educational notices are being put up amid attempts to improve the quality of news appearing ahead of the Eighth Amendment referendum next month. The warnings started to go live yesterday.

The changes come as the firm also faces global criticism about how data belonging to tens of millions of users was shared with outside firms.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg this week faced questions from US politicians about the mining of data as well as fake news.

Niamh Sweeney, Facebook Ireland head of public policy, said: “Improving news literacy is a global priority for Facebook, particularly so for us here in Ireland given the upcoming referendum in May.

"We understand and share people’s desire to see accurate information online and introducing this tool is an important start to improving news literacy in Ireland.”

The notice will feature at the top of Facebook’s news feed and offer users tips on spotting false stories.

The move comes after recent confirmation by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Referendum Commission that they will have no role policing social media during the referendum campaign. Some TDs have raised concerns about campaigners using fake news ahead of the May 25 vote.

Tips include:

  • Be careful reading headlines. False stories can have catchy headlines with exclamation points. If claims sound unbelievable, they may be.
  • Look closely at an URL. A bogus URL may be a warning sign. Many fake news sites mimic authentic sources by making small changes to a URL.
  • Investigate sources. Ensure a story is written by a source you trust. Check a source’s ‘about’ section.
  • Consider photos. False stories often contain manipulated images or videos.
  • Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humour or satire.

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