Facebook says it wants to get rid of hoaxes that go viral on its platform and is relying on users to report these fake stories to Facebook.

In a blog post, Facebook software engineer Erich Owens and research scientist Udi Weinsberg define hoaxes as News Feed spam that are deliberately false or misleading. The story about Sarah Palin joining Al Jazeera and the viral post about declaring copyright ownership of all Facebook photos in a single post are examples of what Facebook considers hoaxes.

For this to work, Facebook will rely on users to report the fake stories as hoaxes. Owens and Weinsberg say these stories are reported as much as two and a half times more often than real news stories. Facebook has added a new option to the reporting tools to label the post as a false news story, which Facebook defines as "purposefully fake or deceitful news" or "a hoax disproved by a reputable source."

Facebook will take into account how many people have flagged the post as fake as well as the number of times people who post them have deleted them. Research done by Facebook says people who share these fake stories are more likely to delete them once friends comment that they are fake.

To be clear, Facebook will not be removing these stories from the News Feed, a move that would be akin to censorship. Instead, Facebook tries to balance being a platform of accurate news stories and freedom of expression by annotating news stories flagged as hoaxes with a message that tells users the post has been reported multiple times as fake.

"Today's update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook," write Owens and Weinsberg. "We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy."

The feature will rely entirely on Facebook's algorithm to learn which stories are reported as fake. Eventually, posts that have been flagged as hoaxes will appear less and less on people's News Feeds.

However, posts from websites established as satire, such as The Onion and The Daily Show, will remain unaffected by the News Feed update. Last year, Facebook even tested a satire tag to allow users to verify if a story is true or satirical, since some users sometimes think the stories are true.

The new feature should be beneficial for all except scammers and spammers. Facebook most of all, should benefit from labeling fake stories are hoaxes, as users blame Facebook's algorithm for including these stories, along with spam, uninteresting marketing posts and tasteless memes. A cleaned-up News Feed with only relevant and interesting content should push up engagement levels, which means more ad dollars for Facebook.

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