Facebook has revealed a new mechanic that should help tackle the wave of hoax news stories that are apparently clogging up people's News Feeds.
Outlined in a blog post, Erich Owens, Software Engineer and Udi Weinsberg, Research Scientist revealed that stories would now come with an option that allows the public to list them as fake, or misleading.
If enough people decide this is the case then not only will Facebook automatically start placing it on less News Feeds while also providing a warning above stating that the story is probably a fake.
Facebook is targeting in particular the kind of click-bait hoaxes like “Click here to win a lifetime supply of coffee” that mean people will see the story, share it and then only after they've shared it realise that the story is a hoax.
By providing a warning the hope is that users will be less inclined to share the story, thus cutting down on the cycle that causes them in the first place.
As Facebook sees it, this is the furthest they can go short of curating the News Feed themselves, something which would inevitably cause chaos as Facebook goes from platform to publisher.
Understandably the company is keen to make this crystal clear:
"Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook. We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy."
With online publishers reliant more than ever on Facebook's News Feed, there will undoubtedly be concerns that the system could be abused, especially in the case of satirical news like that found on The Onion.
Facebook disagrees however saying, "We’ve found from testing that people tend not to report satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire. This type of content should not be affected by this update."
"The vast majority of publishers on Facebook will not be impacted by this update."