In an effort to boost its fake news removal efforts, Facebook has finally launched a feature that has spent a long time in testing: Related Articles.
Around the time Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election, several op-eds came out criticizing Facebook's failure to prevent fake news from spreading on its platform, which in turn is believed to have helped Trump win.
True or not, no one can deny that fake news has been running rampant online, especially on people's newsfeeds — the primary source of information for most. For its part, Facebook admitted its shortcomings and laid out plans on how it could improve.
The latest out of those plans is a Related Articles feature that'll appear directly under news articles with shoddy or dubious provenance. First announced late April, Facebook just confirmed on Thursday, Aug. 3, that it's finally rolling it out.
How Facebook's Related Articles Feature Works
The aim, of course, is to minimize the spread and impact of fake news stories in the newsfeeds of Facebook users. Through updated machine learning technology, Facebook says it's now able to identify a much bigger volume of potential fake stories on the platform and send them off to third-party fact checkers.
If the fact checkers review a certain story, Facebook may accompany it with related articles that offers more information, context, or outright debunks the claim. From time to time, a post from the fact checkers may also appear directly criticizing or contextualizing a given story. Facebook is now rolling out the feature to U.S. users and plans to extend it to Germany, France, and the Netherlands, with plans to roll it out in other countries depending on their individual needs.
Our Machine Learning Evolves: Facebook
There are also other factors that help inform Facebook's machine learning technology, including input from users and fact checkers, and reactions.
"This is really critical because the sooner we can identify false news, the more we can limit the number of people who are exposed to it," said Sara Su, a product manager at Facebook. "We're always learning and testing and evolving the program. It's constantly evolving."
Will Related Articles prevent users from accessing fake news? Of course not, or at least one can't simply predict what will happen even when articles disputing the original material are set in place. At the very least for Facebook, this will help insulate it from infringing on editorial freedom or from accusations of censorship, since Related Articles doesn't technically remove fake news altogether. For users, meanwhile, the additional context provided will help them perceive news with keener eyes.