Facebook fights fake news by eliminating the ability to modify links

facebook stories on desktop tested sign
Panithan Fakseemuang / 123RF
Facebook is continuing the fight against fake news by making sure users cannot alter a link preview — unless they actually own the website. On Tuesday, the social media company removed the ability for users to alter a link’s metadata or the Facebook link preview — including the headline, description, and image — for everyone but publisher pages.

When sharing a link, Pages used to have the ability to modify how the link appeared, for example, adjusting the headline to better reach the social audience over the page’s actual headline that was crafted with search engine optimization in mind. But, some users were manipulating those same features to change the meaning of the link entirely, contributing to the spread of fake news, particularly when users share the post without actually clicking the link. The feature only adjusted how the post appeared on Facebook — clicking on the link would lead to the original article with the original headline and image.

While the change was announced a month ago to prepare Page owners, this week Facebook introduced a tool to help users that relied on those features — and used them to actually alter their own web page links. Now, the Pages Publishing Tools tab has an option for called Link Ownership that allows eligible publishers to continue editing their own links. How? The new publishing tool allows Facebook to determine which websites a Page actually owns.

The new feature is not available to every public Page but is launching for online publishers, including news, sports and entertainment outlets. Facebook says these users largely edit their own link previews in a non-misleading way. Facebook Pages that still fall into these categories, but use the link preview to misrepresent the link’s content or spam other users, will lose access to the tool, the social media company says.

“This tool is another step we’re taking to limit the spread of false news on Facebook,” Alex Hardiman, Facebook Product manager, wrote in a blog post. “We’re committed to supporting publisher workflows, while limiting malicious misrepresentations of underlying link content.”

Facebook says it will continue to improve the new tool over the next few months, based off of feedback from users.

For users, the change will hopefully create fewer fake news pieces floating around that appear to be from a trustworthy source because the link preview was altered — though actually reading a link from the original source before clicking that share button is always a good idea. The feature is part of a long list of updates designed to fight fake news, including a “disputed” tag.

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