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Why do we miss out? Facebook launches tool to tackle ‘fake news’ – but not in Australia

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The tech giant recently ran a link at the top of users’ news feed with advice on “how to spot fake news” in 14 countries including Germany, France, Italy, the UK, US and Canada.

But it is not trying very hard. The tips included looking at an article’s URL; investigating the source of a story; and thinking more critically about whether the article is a joke.

They also recommended being “skeptical of headlines”, as fake news stories “often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points”.

In other words, use your common sense.

But with spammers becoming more savvy about spreading fake news, did it really make a difference?

The message was only up for three days – with users seeing it for a maximum of three times so we doubt it. We Aussies didn’t even get a look-in – despite being some of the biggest users of Facebook in the world.

“Fake news” here to stay?

Facebook is also trying to cut down on the spread of misinformation to its 1.8 billion users by partnering with third-party “fact checkers” in a number of countries to verify stories.

Fake news was a hot topic during the US election when false stories about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were read and shared by millions.

One story claimed Barack Obama had banned the pledge of allegiance in US schools, while another said Hillary Clinton was part of a paedophile ring.

Just recently, Facebook suspended over 30,000 accounts in France to determine if they were fake and potentially spreading false news to disrupt its presidential election.

The 30 most popular fake news stories on political topics were shared around 900,000 times in the last two months, according to the French President’s office.

But really shouldn’t we be aiming to stop the spread of these stories in the first place?

Germany has just introduced legislation that could see social networks fined up to 50 million Euros if they fail to take down illegal content within 24 hours or don’t offer users the chance to report hate speech and fake news.

Could it work here?

Lauren Broomham

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.


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