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Facebook warns of fake news danger ahead of British election

LONDON: Facebook has launched a British newspaper advertising campaign to warn users of the dangers of fake news, in the latest drive by the social media giant to tackle malicious information ahead of a national election.

Facebook has come under intense pressure to tackle the spread of false stories, which came to prominence during the US presidential election last year when many inaccurate posts were widely shared on it and other social media services.

Ahead of the June 8 parliamentary election in Britain, it urged its users in the country to be skeptical of headlines that look unbelievable and to check other sources before sharing news that may not be credible. It said it would also delete bogus profiles and stop promoting posts that show signs of being implausible.

Read More: Google to curb fake, misleading search results with new changes

“We have developed new ways to identify and remove fake accounts that might be spreading false news so that we get to the root of the problem,” said Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of policy for the UK.

The effort builds on the company’s recently expanded campaigns to identify fake news and crack down on automated profile pages that post commercial or political spam.

Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France ahead of the first round of its presidential election last month and uses outside fact-checkers in the country. It has also previously taken out full-page ads in German newspapers to educate readers on how to spot fake news.

With the headline “Tips for spotting false news”, the adverts in Britain listed 10 ways to identify whether a story was genuine or not, including looking closely at a URL, investigating the source, looking for unusual formatting and considering the authenticity of the photo.

Facebook said it had taken action against tens of thousands of fake accounts in Britain after identifying patterns of activity such as whether the same content is being repeatedly posted.

Read More: Facebook hiring 3,000 more workers to monitor content

“With these changes, we expect we will also 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 said.

Social media sites including Twitter and YouTube are also facing pressure in Europe where governments are threatening new laws and fines unless the companies move more quickly to remove extremist content.

Facebook has hired more staff to speed up the removal of videos showing murder, suicide and other violent acts.

Here are “Tips for spotting false news”

Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.

Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site and compare the URL to established sources.

Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.

Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.

Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.

Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.

Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.

Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.

Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.

Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

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