September 11, 2018

Today Facebook expanded its effort to combat misinformation by testing a new feature on its audience analytics platform for journalists.

CrowdTangle announced in a blog post that it’s testing a feature that allows users to report potentially false news stories within the platform’s Facebook dashboards. That test builds upon the company’s existing mechanism for reporting potential misinformation at the post-level as a regular user.

“We know media professionals who use CrowdTangle have a sense of the type of content being circulated that is false or misleading, especially outside the United States. Many also have an understanding of the active ecosystem of websites that generate false news,” Jesse Evans wrote in the post. “We want to give our partners the ability to quickly and easily report false news right where they are, inside CrowdTangle.”

CrowdTangle fake news reporting
(Courtesy CrowdTangle)

The feature does not let CrowdTangle users report potentially false photos or videos, according to the post — just story links. Once they’re reported, those stories are then sent to Facebook’s “misinformation team” to see if the feature is helpful in identifying fake news stories.

The aim of the test is to try and find a way to make Facebook’s partnership with fact-checking organizations more efficient, Evans wrote. The project, which involves 34 outlets in 17 countries, lets fact-checkers debunk false stories and images on Facebook, decreasing their future reach in the News Feed by up to 80 percent. (Disclosure: Being a signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles is a necessary condition to be a partner.)

Essentially: Facebook seems to want to turbocharge its fake news reporting efforts by enlisting professional journalists. But for now, the feature is only a test — not an active signal the company is using to combat misinformation.

“We won't be taking action based on these reports; we're simply trying to see if additional user feedback from CrowdTangle might be a helpful signal for us to identify potentially false stories in the future,” a Facebook spokesperson told Poynter in an email.

Aaron Sharockman, executive director of (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact, said the test seemed like a small but good step for CrowdTangle to take toward combating misinformation. But he said he doubts that relying on journalists — who are often pressed for time and resources — to spot and report potentially false news stories is a good strategy.

The test is Facebook's latest attempt to improve the quality of flags it gets from users reporting potential misinformation.

The Washington Post reported last month that the company had started assigning users who report potentially false posts a credibility score. The goal was to try and cut down on the volume of false flags Facebook receives from users who are merely trying to discredit posts they don't agree with.

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Daniel Funke is a staff writer covering online misinformation for PolitiFact. He previously reported for Poynter as a fact-checking reporter and a Google News Lab…
Daniel Funke

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