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Facebook makes changes in its ongoing attempt to limit misinformation

Facebook is doing a lot of little things to try to address its bigger problems.On Wednesday, the company announced more than a dozen updates about how...

Posted: Apr 11, 2019 8:04 AM

Facebook is doing a lot of little things to try to address its bigger problems.

On Wednesday, the company announced more than a dozen updates about how it is addressing misinformation and other problematic content on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. To promote the various efforts, the company held a four-hour long event at its Menlo Park headquarters for around 20 reporters where employees for various Facebook products recapped changes and answered questions.

For years, Facebook has grappled with the spread of controversial content on its platform, such as misinformation about elections, anti-vaccination stories, violence and hate speech.

Facebook has been trying to remove things faster that are against its rules, and "reduce" the spread of content that doesn't explicitly violate its policies, but is still troublesome, such as clickbait and misinformation.

"We don't remove information from Facebook just because it's false. We believe we have to strike a balance," Facebook's VP of integrity Guy Rosen said at the event. "When it comes to false information by real people, we aim to reduce distribution and provide context."

For example, Facebook said it will lessen the reach of groups that often share misinformation. When users in a group frequently share content that has been deemed false by Facebook's third-party fact checkers, that group's content will be pushed lower in News Feed so fewer people see it.

There will also be a "click-gap" signal, which will affect a link's position in the News Feed. With this feature, Facebook hopes to reduce the spread of websites that are disproportionately popular on Facebook compared to other parts of the web.

It is working with experts to identify new ways to combat fake news on the platform. The Associated Press is expanding the work it does for Facebook's independent fact-checking program, too.

The company has frequently described its issues with problematic content as "adversarial." In the company's framing, it is fighting an enemy that learns and changes tactics. The bundle of changes it announced on Wednesday are its newest weapons.

Facebook policy bans content that it determines can result in "imminent physical violence." Employees on Wednesday defended its decision to not ban all misinformation or anti-vaccination content on its products.

"When it comes to thinking about harm, it is really hard ... to draw a line between a piece of content and something that happens to people offline," said Tessa Lyons, Facebook's head of News Feed integrity.

She said some of the posts that appeared to be anti-vaccination involved people asking questions, seeking information and having conversations around the topic.

"There is a tension between enabling expression and discourse and conversation, and ensuring that people are seeing authentic and accurate information. We don't think that one private company should be making decisions about what information can or cannot be shared online," she said.

Renee Murphy, principal analyst at research firm Forrester who covers security and risk, said that while Facebook's steps are positive, they don't do nearly enough to address some of its larger problems.

"Part of me says 'awesome [this content] wont go as far as it used to," she said. "The other part says 'I have no trust in any of this.' At the end of the day, what is any of this going to do? How will they manage it?"

Facebook is also trying to be more transparent with users about how and why it makes decisions. As part of the effort, the company is adding a new section to its Community Standards website where users can see the updates Facebook makes to its policies every month.

Another update lets users remove comments and other content they posted to a Facebook Group after they leave it.

Meanwhile, Facebook-owned Instagram is trying to squash the spread of inappropriate posts that don't violate its policies. For example, a sexually suggestive photo would still pop up in a feed if a user follows that account, but it may no longer be recommended for the Explore Page or in pages for hashtags.

Facebook also announced a few updates to its chat service Messenger, including a Facebook verified badge that would show up in chats to help fight scammers who impersonate public figures.

Another tool called the Forward Indicator will pop up in Messenger when a message is forwarded by the sender. WhatsApp, another Facebook-owned app, has a similar function, which is part of an effort to stop the spread of misinformation. WhatsApp has had major issues with viral hoax messages spreading on the platform, which have resulted in more than a dozen lynchings in India.

Forrester's Murphy believes the company should do more to address major issues such as violence being livestreamed and going viral on the platform. Last month, a suspected terrorist was able to stream live video to Facebook of a mass murder in New Zealand. The company said its AI systems failed to catch the video, and it took down 1.5 million videos of the attack in the first 24 hours.

"They have bigger problems. I'm sure [these updates] will help sometimes, but there are bigger problems at foot," she said. "Facebook has a lot more to do."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31257

Reported Deaths: 1114
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds253640
DeSoto162016
Madison131434
Jones112849
Neshoba99271
Rankin95112
Harrison93311
Lauderdale91079
Forrest87842
Scott77315
Jackson63816
Copiah60715
Washington5919
Leake57819
Holmes55741
Lee55219
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51618
Yazoo5136
Lowndes49413
Leflore49151
Grenada4905
Lincoln46634
Lamar4657
Pike44112
Monroe40330
Sunflower4008
Lafayette3934
Attala36123
Covington3595
Panola3526
Bolivar34014
Newton3399
Simpson3233
Adams31318
Pontotoc2926
Tate28810
Marion28411
Chickasaw27918
Claiborne27910
Noxubee2678
Winston2666
Jasper2636
Pearl River25732
Clay25111
Marshall2343
Smith21811
Union2109
Clarke20724
Walthall2045
Coahoma2016
Kemper17914
Lawrence1782
Yalobusha1737
Carroll16611
Humphreys1509
Tallahatchie1374
Itawamba1368
Montgomery1352
Calhoun1324
Tippah13111
Hancock13013
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1124
Jefferson1083
Prentiss1083
Greene1058
Tunica1053
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George893
Tishomingo831
Quitman780
Choctaw744
Alcorn712
Perry674
Stone651
Franklin452
Benton380
Sharkey380
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 45263

Reported Deaths: 1007
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5410152
Montgomery4158103
Mobile4129134
Tuscaloosa232142
Marshall172410
Madison14917
Lee141137
Shelby133423
Morgan11215
Walker97824
Elmore94314
Franklin89814
Baldwin8949
Dallas8919
Etowah75013
DeKalb7375
Chambers64227
Butler63428
Autauga61012
Tallapoosa60569
Russell5650
Houston5074
Unassigned50323
Limestone5010
Lauderdale4966
Lowndes47221
Cullman4594
Pike4375
Colbert4086
St. Clair4022
Escambia3966
Coffee3812
Calhoun3765
Covington3707
Bullock36910
Barbour3532
Talladega3177
Hale31421
Marengo31211
Dale2990
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Jackson2842
Clarke2776
Winston2633
Chilton2522
Blount2431
Monroe2392
Pickens2366
Marion23313
Conecuh2107
Randolph2099
Macon1999
Choctaw19512
Bibb1941
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1117
Lawrence1100
Cherokee1027
Geneva830
Lamar781
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Clay692
Coosa591
Cleburne381
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