Facebook has invested in a series of national UK newspaper ads to highlight its fake news crackdown ahead of the UK General Election. The social network has also unveiled fresh measures designed help it rank the viability of articles read within its walls.
The tech giant is turning to the printed word to hammer home its message, having paid for a series of of full-page splashes offering readers ’10 tips for spotting false news’. The ads feature advice around source checking, being wary of parody stories and casting a skeptical eye over headlines.
Facebook ran a carbon copy of the campaign in France prior to the country's own election across titles like Le Monde, Les Échos, Libération, Le Parisien and 20 Minutes.
Facebook’s timely play to immortalise these tips in select UK print titles comes ahead of June’s General Election. Just a few weeks ago the platform faced pressure from MP and chair of the culture, media and spot committee, Damian Collins, who warned that it must do more to purge fake news in the run-up to the vote. The politician said such material posed a threat to the “integrity of democracy”.
The move also follows an announcement last month that Facebook users across 14 countries, including those in the UK, would be served ‘educational notices’ at the top of their news feeds. The messages have been rolling out over the past few weeks, directing users to a hub containing tips on how to spot a false story and were created in consultation with nonprofit First Draft.
The company was criticised by politicians and journalists for inadvertently enabling the spread of falsehoods during the US election, but chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the notion it had influenced President Trump’s win a “pretty crazy idea”.
Simon Milner, Facebook's director of policy said the firm is doing everything in its power to stop fake news being shared and read. ”We can't solve this problem alone so we are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organisations, so they can independently assess facts and stories," he added, harking back to earlier reports the company was working with the likes of Snope and PolitiFact.
Facebook has also said technical changes it made in April to help it better detect fake accounts have resulted in action against “tens of thousands” of inauthentic and spam profiles. The social network has also announced it is testing an ‘informed sharing’ feature in the UK that monitors when users read stories without sharing them - a key indicator an article could be false, and something that will help the company rank the viability of stories according to Facebook.
The firm has faced challenges over the past year in particular in carving out its role in the news ecosystem. Zuckerberg has previously asserted his business is "not a traditional media company," but others like Sir Martin Sorrell have argued that Facebook needs to accept its role a media owner. Sheryl Sandberg recently said it would be "inappropriate" for the platform to play publisher when it comes to fake news.
Facebook's decision to advertise in traditional news outlets follows on from a recent study which found two-thirds of publishers view the rise of fake news as an opportunity for quality journalism to stand out.