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Facebook Cracks Down On ‘Fake News’

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

‘Fake news’ scourge tackled by Facebook after it closes 30,000 fake accounts in France

Facebook has ramped up its campaign to take down so-called ‘fake news’, that some believe may have impacted the US election.

The social networking giant said that protecting authenticity is an ongoing challenge, but on a daily basis it is making changes to its systems to better detect abuse, fake news, and other online nastiness.

Last month Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, called on users to help pressure governments and corporations over issues such as misinformation.

facebook-privacyPatterns of Activity

Facebook revealed its progress in a blog posting this week by Shabnam Shaik, a Technical Program Manager on the Protect and Care Team at the social network.

“We’ve found that when people represent themselves on Facebook the same way they do in real life, they act responsibly,” he wrote. “Fake accounts don’t follow this pattern, and are closely related to the creation and spread of spam.”

“Protecting authenticity is an ongoing challenge – one that requires vigilance and commitment,” he noted. “Staying ahead of those who try to misuse our service is a constant effort led by our security and integrity teams, and we know this work will never be done.”

Shaik said that it recent years Facebook has developed sophisticated systems to help block automated programs (or “bots”) from trying to create fake accounts, and that its security systems carry out checks millions of times per second in the background.

“We’ve made some additional improvements recently, and want to explain them here today,” he added. “These changes help us detect fake accounts on our service more effectively – including ones that are hard to spot. We’ve made improvements to recognize these inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity – without assessing the content itself. For example, our systems may detect repeated posting of the same content, or an increase in messages sent.”

He said these changes will help Faceook to reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content. And these changes have achieved success, most notably in France.

“In France, for example, these improvements have enabled us to take action against over 30,000 fake accounts,” said Shaik. “While these most recent improvements will not result in the removal of every fake account, we are dedicated to continually improving our effectiveness.”

Financial Profit

Shaik said that the company had found that a lot of false news is financially motivated, and Facebook has focused on “making it very difficult for dishonest people to exploit our platform or profit financially from false news sites using Facebook”.

Besides the campaign against fake news, the firm has also been busy improving other security systems.

In December Facebook revealed that it was developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system to monitor potentially offensive uploaded content.

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