Facebook, Twitter and media firms are joining hands to stop the spread of inaccurate online news. Pic: AP

Fact vs Fiction: Facebook, Twitter join network to stop fake news spread

SOCIAL media can be awash with fake news stories and misleading information – from celebrity death hoaxes to political satire masquerading as real news or rumors spread with malicious intent.

A more discerning news junkie may be able to weed out the hoaxes, but not always. And this could be dangerous or even hurt sensitivities, especially in cases when inaccurate information is reported as fact in a natural disaster or other tragedies.

As recently as August, social media giant Facebook inadvertently featured a fake story about Fox News anchor Megan Kelly titled: ‘Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out For Backing Hillary’ in its news “Trending” section.

The article was pulled eventually, as reported by Fortune, but the incident in itself signals that as social media appetites grow, so too do the challenges faced by firms that rely heavily on digital curation.

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In a bid to stop featuring such inaccurate stories, Facebook, along with Twitter, has joined a network of over 30 news and technology companies to tackle fake news and improve the quality of information spread on social media.

Formed in June 2015 with the backing of Google, the network, called First Draft Coalition, is planning on launching a voluntary code of practice in October to promote news literacy among social media users, and launch a platform where members can verify questionable news stories.

Other members of the group include New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Agence France-Presse, and CNN.

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The network comes at a time when Facebook has increased its use of automation to select the most-talked about topics of the day for its “Trending” feature in a bid to remove human bias.

Facebook is the biggest social media network with 1.7 billion users each month, but Twitter is most commonly used to ‘break’ stories.

Fake news stories can range from the ridiculous to the panic inducing.

For example, in 2010 Fox News’ ‘Fox & Friends’ broke a fake story claiming that the Los Angeles Police Department planned to spend $1 billion on jet packs for its officers.

In 2012 CNN and the Weather Channel falsely reported that the New York Stock Exchange was “under three feet of water” after Hurricane Sandy. The story originated from fake pictures on social media.