Facebook begins discrediting fake news with false Irish slavery story

The fake news story in question.

Facebook has begun rolling out its new feature created to combat the spread of fake news after warnings appeared around an article claiming thousands of Irish people were taken to the US as slaves.

The tool, which the social media company outlined in December, has been implemented in some regions, including San Francisco.

With the help of users and five independent fact checkers- ABC News, AP, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes- Facebook now alerts users attempted to share fake news articles with a warning stating that that the story has been disputed by one or more of its partners. Clicking on the warning then produces a pop-up with more information “About disputed content”.

Users who ignore the warning and click “publish” are reminded that its accuracy of the article’s contents have been “disputed”. If they chose to “post anyway” the published link appears in others’ timelines as “Disputed by Snopes.com and Associated Press”.

The roll out of the tool was first observed by users who attempted to link to a story published by the Rhode Island entertainment blog Newport Buzz titled “The Irish slave trade – the slaves that time forgot”.

The article was widely shared on Facebook in the lead-up to St Patrick’s Day on 17 March, however it falsely claimed that hundreds of thousands of Irish people were brought to the US as slaves.

The Guardian reported that the tool was triggered when it attempted to publish the Newport Buzz story in San Francisco, but not in London or Sydney.

Several far right-winger bloggers appear to be unhappy with the new feature, including one Twitter users who described the tool as “Facebook’s pre-Thoughtcrime Unit”.

Paul Joseph Watson, the editor of conspiracy theory website Infowars, was also upset by the fake news tool, claiming that Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners Snopes was a “bias, far left outfit” and “not a responsible ‘fact-checker’.”

Liam Hogan, a historian who had been tracing the spread of fake news around Irish Slaves, lamented the outrage from the far right.

Google, which has had its own problems around advertising and objectionable content, has recently taken measures to combat fake news with a 'fact check' label alongside established tags like 'opinion' and 'in-depth' in Google News search results.

Traditional print news outlets meanwhile have been attempting to capitalise on the rise of fake news. The Times newspaper has been placing greater significance on better serving the readers that care about its news, rather than chasing scale with unreliable journalism.

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Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

All by Tony