Since it's been accused of partly being responsible for letting fake news run rampant on its platform, which made several columnists say that it also helped Donald Trump win the presidency, Facebook has been aggressive with getting rid of false news entirely.
It's already tapped Snopes and Associated Press for fact-checking help and for tagging fake news stories. Stories marked as disputed are also banned from being promoted via Facebook ads. Most recently, it deployed "Related Articles," a feature that displays complementary news articles directly under a questionable news item.
The next step is preventing pages that share fake news from buying Facebook ads, regardless if their fake news stories include a disputed link or not.
Fake News Pages Will Be Blocked From Buying Ads
"If Pages repeatedly share stories marked as false, these repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to advertise on Facebook," reads Facebook's announcement.
"This update will help to reduce the distribution of false news which will keep Pages that spread false news from making money."
Facebook said it found instances of Pages buying ads just to spread fake news stories and hoaxes more broadly. This time, if Pages continue sharing stories marked by third-party fact-checkers, Facebook will prevent them for purchasing ads altogether. However, if they stop sharing fake news, they can begin buying ads once more.
Facebook And Its Fake News Problem
Facebook received stern criticisms last year for allegedly doing nothing to stop the spread of fake news on its platform. Ever since, the term "fake news" has been thrown all over the place, notably by the president himself when referring to CNN or other major publications. As TechCrunch notes, Facebook has chosen to use the term "false news" instead.
Rob Leathern, Facebook's product director, said the company has been trying to combat false news in three ways: ending monetary value of fake news, hampering or slowing down their spread, and helping users be better at identifying them when they appear on their newsfeed.
In the case of this newest change, blocking fake news Pages from buying ads will end the monetary value of spreading such news. The company is particularly concerned that some Pages are using false news stories as a way to build an audience. Shutting down their ability to create and push ads will severely handicap them in trying to attract audiences.
Facebook failed to mention any specifics — for instance, how many links to false news stories a Page must share before it gets blocked from buying ads, and for that matter, how long it'll take for them to get unblocked suppose they stop sharing such items.
"Obviously, it's not a single instance. It's a repeated pattern of misinformation," said Leathern.