The War Against Fake News Continues

The battle against “fake news” continues, at least on social media.

Facebook reported earlier this week that it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country’s presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation.

Facebook went on to state that it’s trying to “reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.”

Facebook had previously ramped up its efforts against the spread of false news and misinformation on its service in December, a month after the U.S. presidential election. The company said at the time that it will focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories.

This action is partially a result of Facebook being accused of allowing the spread of false news in the months leading up to the U.S. election, which may have helped change the results of the election.

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Last week, Facebook launched a resource (above image) to help users spot false news in 14 countries including the U.S., France and Germany. It’s a notification, available for a few days, that leads users to a list of tips for spotting false news and ways to report it.

Facebook’s other efforts include participating with other companies and tech industry leaders to establish a “news integrity” nonprofit organization to promote news literacy and increase the public’s trust in journalism.

I do expect that this fake news problem, which is now a world wide phenomenon will eventually be dealt with. However, how that will look, or how effective our efforts will be is unknown.

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Social Media Begins Responding to Fake News

Fake news is anything but fake, it is a very real problem. Both Facebook & YouTube which have been outlets for creators of fake news are starting to respond to this threat. In fact one of the biggest ways in which Russia interfered with the presidential election of 2016 was through the publishing of fake news stories which even included entire Facebook pages.

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Facebook’s Fake News Response

Facebook is launching a resource to help you spot false news and misleading information that spreads on its service.

The resource, similar to previous efforts around privacy and security, is basically a notification that pops up for a few days. Clicking on it takes you to tips and other information on how to spot false news and what to do about it.

Tips to spot false news include looking closely at website addresses to see if they are trying to spoof real news sites, and checking websites’ “about” sections for more information. Some sites might look like real news at first glance, but their “about” sections inform the visitor that they are in fact satire.

The new feature is part of a broader plan by Facebook to clamp down false news stories, which gained outsized attention in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

False news, of course, was around long before the election. But supermarket tabloids peddling stories about aliens and celebrity miracles are less insidious than, say, “Pizzagate,” a false internet rumor that led a gunman to fire an assault weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December.

This new resource should be launching soon. Watch for it.

YouTube’s Fake News Response

Youtube announced this past Thursday that is it is cracking down on fake news channels by no longer placing advertising on them until they’ve reached 10,000 overall views.

YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., also the parent company of Google, announced changes after several big companies pulled their advertising from the company because their ads were appearing with objectionable content.

The online video service said the changes are designed to make sure channels are legitimate and not stealing content.

In the past, the open-ended policy allowed amateur video creators to earn money and some work became viral and earned a considerable amount.

Several advertisers, including Walmart, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Pepsico, Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson, pulled out of YouTube after their ads appeared in extremist hate-speech videos.

YouTube, due to it’s reliance on advertisers and their growing reluctance to appear on fake news & hate filled stories is spearheading this response.

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Facebook Stories Arrives But What Is It?

Facebook Stories is rolling out to everyone on Facebook. Along with it comes a filter-tastic new in-app camera, as well as a direct messaging feature.

The update started rolling out this morning on iOS and Android and it brings with it three parts: a redesigned in-app camera, a new feed of ephemeral stories at the top of the News Feed, and a private messaging feature called Direct. Taken together, the features represent the biggest changes to Facebook’s core product in several years.

Just like Snapchat, Facebook Stories consist of photos and images that disappear 24 hours after they are posted. You can decorate your posts with text, drawings, stickers, and Snapchat-like animated filters. While the basic suite of creative tools is the same across Facebook’s products, the flagship app’s stories have a few twists of their own. It’s the first Facebook app to get animated face filters.

Facebook Stories works exactly like on Instagram; Stories live above your News Feed for 24 hours, and can include both videos and images with a variety of filter effects. There’s even now a dedicated camera button on the top left of the app to serve as a constant reminder to post some goofy filtered-up photo.

But to Facebook, the filters are more than just trivial additions. People are sharing more visual content than ever, and these effects are a way to augment and provide context for the moments being shared on screen.

Facebook apparently is so smitten with filters that the company has a small team of artists creating the filters, and works to adapt the filters for each region so that they are relevant to everyone using them. It’s also partnering with various brands for themed filters, including Power Rangers, Minions, and Wonder Woman masks, and intends to introduce “new ways for the Facebook community to create their own frames and effects” in the coming months.

One area Facebook is a bit different from other apps is that you have the option to share Stories directly onto your Timeline and News Feed as well, giving them a bit more visibility by placing them among standard posts. You can also now share 24-hour media with only a few specific people via a ‘Direct’ feature.

Stories is clearly a big push for the Facebook, and the fact that they live above your News Feed is remarkable, considering the latter has always been your main way of experiencing media on the social network.



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Facebook – New Video Features Coming

Facebook is announcing a series of major updates to video on the social network today. Some good – some bad.

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Facebook Updates – The Good

And I mean annoyingly bad. Facebook will now begin to autoplay sound on videos, so prepare for a cacophony of noises as you simply try to catch up with your friends’ lives. This is such a terrible idea that I believe within two months Facebook will be forced to rethink this (and turn autoplay off).

In an attempt to not be so annoying Facebook Audio will fade in and out as you scroll past the videos on your feed, so at least you shouldn’t be caught off guard with the jarring screams of some prank video your friend shared. Sound will also not play if your phone is in silent mode.

Also users will be able to disable the feature by turning off “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound” in your app Settings. Facebook will also be providing “in-product messages to tell people about the new sound on experience and controls.” However as we know many users will simply be annoyed by this not knowing that they can actually turn audio in videos off.

Facebook Updates – The Good

The other changes are less controversial. Vertical video will now take up a much larger portion of your display on Android and iOS devices.

You’ll also now be able to activate a picture-in-picture mode to minimize a video window and continue scrolling through your News Feed while keeping an eye on whatever recipe video caught your attention.

The videos are much like Facebook’s chat heads – you can toss them around onto any corner of the app. It’s even better if you’re an Android user: you can keep on watching video even after you exit the Facebook app. Google’s own YouTube app doesn’t even let you do that.

Lastly, Facebook announced it will soon introduce a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV. Other platforms are to follow.

The app allows you watch videos shared by your friends or pages you follow, as well some of the most popular live videos from around the world and other content tailored to your interests. You can also watch all those videos you’ve saved to watch for later, or revisit the videos you’ve already watched or shared.

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Finding Shelter with Facebook

Facebook is leveraging its power as the world’s biggest social network to help people find food, shelter and transportation during or after major emergency.

Called Community Help, the feature becomes available after a Safety Check is activated. Once that happens, you can tap on the “Go to Safety Check” banner that appears atop your screen, and then select either ‘Find Help’ or “Give Help.’

From there, you can select the type of help you need from categories like food, transportation, water, shelter, baby supplies, pet supplies and more. You’ll then see a list of people offering that kind of aid, as well as their rough location, and can initiate a direct message conversation to get the help you need.

Facebook reports that Community Help was inspired by people already trying to provide aid during a crisis. The new feature simply makes it easier for helpers and victims to communicate with each other.

Safety Check has been under scrutiny at times due to both false alarms and times it should have activated but was not. Community Help will likely fall under similar scrutiny should someone try to abuse the system.

Nonetheless, Facebook has been working to expand access to Safety check to a greater number of communities, and Community Help is a legitimate step forward towards making it a lot more useful during an emergency.

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Facebook Photos Get Smarter

Facebook probably already knows who your friends are, where you work, who you are in a relationship with and even what your phone number. And now Facebook knows not just what objects are in the photos your post & what is happening in them.

Facebook has recently updated its search feature so you can search for photos based on simple descriptions, like “pizza” or “cat” regardless if they’ve been tagged with these words. Because this feature is new it is still a bit unpredictable, but seems to do a fairly good job of the basics, like differentiating between obvious objects, attractions, and scenes.

How Is Facebook Accomplishing This?

Lumos is [Facebook’s] artificially intelligent program that allows the computer to “see” what’s inside the image you just shared. It appears Lumos is getting an upgrade with the ability to recognize actions. The network’s automatic alt text, used for describing a photo to the visually impaired, will now recognize 12 different actions, from walking and dancing to actions that can be described by a verb with a noun, like riding a horse or playing an instrument.

Privacy Concerns?

There are privacy considerations with this type of new A.I. (artificial intelligence). Being able to search photos for specific clothing or religious place of worship could make it easy to target Facebook users based on religious belief. Photo search also extends Facebook’s knowledge of users to what they actually do in real life. That could allow for far more specific targeting for advertisers.

As with everything on Facebook, features have their cost…. your data.

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Facebook’s Battle Against Fake News

Facebook is updating its “trending” feature that highlights hot topics on its social networking site, part of its effort to root out the kind of fake news stories that critics contend helped Donald Trump become president.

With the changes announced Wednesday, Facebook’s trending list will consist of topics being covered by several publishers. Before, it focused on subjects drawing the biggest crowds of people sharing or commenting on posts.

I believe it is this “focusing on the biggest crowds” that was Facebook’s error which resulted in so much fake news on people’s newsfeeds.

The switch is intended to make Facebook a more credible source of information by steering hordes of its 1.8 billion users toward topics that “reflect real world events being covered by multiple outlets,” Will Cathcart, the company’s vice president of product management, said in a blog post.

Facebook also will also stop customizing trending lists to cater to each user’s personal interests. Instead, everyone located in the same region will see the same trending lists, which currently appear in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and India.

This change in particular could widen the scope of information Facebook’s users see, instead of just topics that reinforce what they may have already heard or read elsewhere. The broader perspective might reduce the chances of Facebook’s users living in a “filter bubble” — only engaging with people and ideas with which they agree.

Questions about Facebook’s influence on what people are reading intensified last summer after a technology blog relying on an anonymous source reported that human editors routinely suppressed conservative viewpoints on the site.

Facebook fired the small group of journalists overseeing its trending items and replaced them with an algorithm that was supposed to be a more neutral judge about what to put on the list.

But the automated approach began to pick out posts that were getting the most attention, even if the information in them was bogus. Some of the fake news stories targeted Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, prompting critics to believe the falsehoods help Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially brushed off that notion as “crazy ,” but in December the company announced a slew of new measures to curb the spread of fake news.

To discourage the creation of fake news in the first place, Facebook also is banishing perpetual publishers of false information from its lucrative ad network.

Google, which operates an even larger digital ad network, has taken a similar stand against publishers of fake news.

My Take on Fake News

What are of this tells us is that social media and fake news is a very real problem and often results in people living in bubbles that they are comfortable with. This is very ironic considering that we have access to more information then ever before in human history. However people tend to only listen to what makes them comfortable and choose outlets that they agree with. This first happened with cable news channels (Fox News), now it is occurring on social media.

This is dangerous and suffocating to individual growth.

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Changes Arrive On Your Facebook Newsfeed

Facebook today announced a few changes to the way it handles video on your News Feed.

In the past, video was ranked based on a few actions, like whether a video was live, if people bothered to turn on sound, or if you decided to open it to a full screen view.

Today’s announcement adds another metric, ‘percent completion,’ to determine how to rank video and determine what’s worth inserting into your News Feed. Percent completion is exactly what it sounds like, the amount of time you watch each video before shutting it off and scrolling to the next item. The longer you watch, it stands to reason, the more compelling the content is, and thus the more it should appear in the News Feed of others.

As for longer videos, the metric makes sense as it takes into account that sometimes life gets in the way of that 10 minute clip from ‘Last Week Tonight.’ If you’d watched six minutes before clicking away, the approach would still score the experience more favorably than watching 10 seconds of a 90 second video, for example.

And for the important question, how will this impact your Facebook Page? It remains to be seen, but Facebook expects that most Pages won’t notice a significant change.

While we expect that most Pages will not see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update, longer videos that people spend time watching may see a slight increase in distribution on Facebook — so people who find longer videos engaging may be able to discover more of them in News Feed. As a side effect, some shorter videos may see a slight dip in News Feed distribution.

Not all users will notice the change immediately, although it did begin its roll out today. Over time, the feature will be monitored, and rolled out to more users.

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Facebook Goes to Battle Against Fake News

Fake news has become a very real problem. Facebook has been at the epicenter of the problem because this is the most popular place where people share stories. When presented with this problem originally Facebook suggested that there was “no problem”, however their response has officially changed. Thank goodness.

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Facebook yesterday announced a series of steps it’s taking to combat the spread of fake news stories. First up the company is making it easier to report fake news. Just click on the upper right hand corner of the post, and you’ll have an option to report a story as fake. You can also message the person who posted the story, or block them altogether if you’d rather have none of that.

However a more aggressive move by Facebook has the company now working with third-party fact-checking agencies operating under Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. Facebook states that it is using community reports and “other signals” to send potentially fake articles to fact checking organizations. If designated fake, the post will be flagged as disputed, and may appear lower on your news feed.

In addition Facebook will provide a link to the correct information. That’s important, as even if a story is flagged as fake, there’s a chance someone might choose to ignore the flag or forget it over time. You’ll still be able to share potentially fake stories, but you will be warned of their falsehood.

Facebook has also noticed that fake articles are often shared significantly less than others once they are actually read (compared to sharing based off of the headline alone). The company will test using outliers that exhibit these share patterns as a sign of fake news, and automatically downranking such them.

Finally, Facebook states that it is working on reducing financial incentives for fake news sites. It says it’s eliminated the ability to spoof domains, and is looking to enforce its news policies with shadier publishers to reduce their ad revenue, although it’s not saying how.

Hopeful News

Fake news is a very real problem, not because readers are stupid but more likely people are busy and only read news that catches their attention and even more so, news that they agree with or gets them excited. The problem here is that people are often lured into believing something not because it is true – but because they want it to be true.  I truly hope that these steps Facebook is taking to combat fake news has a meaningful impact.

Finally I believe fake news is yet another result of the rapid extinction of legitimate news print. This is having a tragic impact on how many of see the world around us.

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Facebook To Launch Wi-Fi Finder

Facebook really – really wants you visiting their service and a new feature about to launch may actually be pretty awesome. It is called Wi-Fi finder.

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The Wi-Fi finder feature has reportedly started showing up in the Facebook app via the menu for some users. It is located along with other location based options like “Nearby Places” and “Device Requests.” An option labeled “Enable Wi-Fi” is included in the menu for users who can access the feature. Toggling the setting on will allow the app to search nearby locations for Wi-Fi.

For those with access to the Wi-Fi finder, a splash page is presented to them that encourages them to enable the feature so Facebook can “build a history of precise locations received through your device.” It also notes tracked information can be deleted through a user’s activity log.

Once enabled, the feature generates a map of nearby locations where Wi-Fi is available, and provides details about and directions to those hot spots. It could be a handy tool for anyone looking for a place to stop to recharge and save some data along the way.

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Screenshot of a lucky Facebook user with the “Wi-fi Finder” available.

As of this post the feature appears to be available only to a limited group of users but it should be rolling out to everyone soon. I do not have this available to me yet.

Keep an eye out for this if you are a Facebook user on your mobile device.

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