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article imageFacebook tweaks the News Feed to bury fake news

By James Walker     Feb 1, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has announced another change to its News Feed algorithms that will help reduce the ranking of fake news. The company has introduced new signals that are better able to distinguish between authentic, relevant content and fake headlines.
Facebook has been forced to step up its fight against fake news after being widely criticised for allowing it to proliferate across its platform. In the wake of a BuzzFeed report claiming people engaged more with fake headlines than real ones during the U.S. election, Facebook has begun to implement new measures in an effort to stop the epidemic.
Today, it announced its latest measure designed to hide fake news and surface more relevant content instead. In a blog post, it said it is adding new signals to the News Feed's ranking systems that can determine if a post's content is authentic.
To do this, Facebook looks at the overall human engagement with the post. The number of likes, comments and shares are considered, as well as more telling indicators such as how many people hid the post after reading it. This may suggest its content doesn't warrant a high News Feed ranking.
Facebook has also been categorising Pages to work out whether their content is relevant to users. By assessing if a Page regularly posts spam or asks users for likes and comments, Facebook can build a better estimate of how newsworthy its posts are. This is then combined with existing News Feed signals to work out the overall ranking of the content.
As a result of the changes, fake news and other inauthentic material may now appear further down the News Feed. Facebook said it's making the changes in response to customer feedback, noting that the community has expressed its intolerance for misleading, self-promoting stories.
"Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them," said Facebook. "One of our News Feed values is authentic communication. We've heard from our community that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most – those that people consider genuine and not misleading, sensational or spammy."
Alongside the new universal signals, Facebook is also bringing online more real-time signals that continually evaluate the popularity of new posts. This information is then used when sorting content for displaying in the News Feed.
If global interest in a particular topic spikes, Facebook may temporarily place related posts higher in the feed. For example, when your favourite football team wins a game, posts about the match could appear higher in the News Feed than usual, because of the sudden attention across Facebook. Similarly, content that friends have been liking or commenting on will be promoted above over material.
The changes will help provide further resistance to the spread of fake news and spam on Facebook. Facebook is continuing to develop new ways of identifying and removing misleading content and more measures will be implemented in the future. The new signals go live in the News Feed today.
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