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article imageFacebook to cut down on 'shocking' and 'malicious' content

By James Walker     May 11, 2017 in Technology
Facebook is adjusting the way it ranks posts in the News Feed to help filter out content that people may find offensive or abusive. The company is targeting links to websites that contain clickbait, misleading headlines and low-quality ads.
The measure is the latest Facebook has made as it attempts to bring the fake news epidemic under control. After being criticised for allegedly enabling fake news to flourish during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Facebook is amongst the tech giants to have changed the way it indexes content to hide less newsworthy articles.
This week, Facebook launched another News Feed update that adds more refinements to the social network's content ranking algorithms. The company is cracking down on advertisers who contravene its policies and create low-quality webpage experiences. After initially warning ad providers last year, Facebook has stated it will step up its enforcement of its rules after hearing feedback from users.
Facebook has reviewed "hundreds of thousands" of webpages linked in posts on its platform. Its systems have scanned the page content to single out articles lacking a factual basis and containing a large number of poor quality ads. Often, the presence of one will signal the existence of the other elsewhere on the same site.
Facebook has indexed the pages so it can identify them the next time they're linked in a post. The post may show up lower in the News Feed after it's created, preventing people being misled by the article's content. The post's ability to be monetised using ads could also be restricted.
The improvements will roll out gradually over the course of the summer. Facebook is solely targeting publishers who contravene its guidelines. The owners of pages that only share high-quality content with well-placed ads and original information should not notice any changes in the distribution of their posts.
The announcement represents Facebook's growing commitment to taking fake news and low-quality webpages seriously. The company said it has found ads that are "disruptive," "shocking" and "malicious," compromising the user experience while making money for the content authors. The revised algorithms are intended to increase the pressure on financially-motivated spammers.
"We hear from our community that they're disappointed when they click on a link that leads to a web page containing little substantive content and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads," said Facebook. "People expect their experience after clicking on a post to be straightforward."
The new effort joins Facebook's existing attempts to reduce the financial incentives of creating and publishing fake and misleading content. Last year, Facebook and Google both started banning fake news sites from their advertising networks, cutting them off from a vital revenue supply.
Facebook has pledged to continue its work to gain control of fake news, introducing new systems during the French election designed to stop factually lacking articles spreading as widely as in the U.S. This week, the company also took out full-page ads in UK newspapers ahead of the country's general election next month. The ads informed readers on how to spot fake news, warning users to be "sceptical" of headlines written in capitals and containing exclamation marks.
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