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Facebook weeds out more fake news

Called out for a raft of fake news stories that allegedly affected the 2016 US election, Facebook is systematically adding steps to show what's real.

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More than 1.7 billion people use Facebook every month, which means lots of people scan see lots of imaginary and made-up stories pretending to be legit at any given time. (We're looking at you, #PizzaGate conspiracy theorists.)

It's been a problem on the world's largest social network for at least a year, but made headlines during the 2016 US election after some commentators argued that fake news circulating on Facebook helped a 70-year-old reality TV personality become the 45th US president. Days after the election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it "crazy" to think Facebook's News Feed affected the results. Since then, though, the company has been taking steps to help its users separate the real from fantasy.

On Tuesday, it said it's created new "signals" to ID authentic content as well as new ways to predict when posts might be more relevant.

"To do this, we categorized Pages to identify whether or not they were posting spam or trying to game feed by doing things like asking for likes, comments or shares," Facebook research scientists wrote in a blog post. "We then used posts from these Pages to train a model that continuously identifies whether posts from other Pages are likely to be authentic. For example, if Page posts are often being hidden by people reading them, that's a signal that it might not be authentic. If a post is likely to be authentic based on the new signals we look at, it might show up higher in your feed."

Earlier last week, Facebook added a publisher headline beneath headlines Trending topics. The company said it's also looking at the number of publishers posting articles on the same topic as a way to "ensure that trending topics reflect real world events being covered by multiple news outlets."

And in December, Facebook announced it's making it easier for people to flag hoaxes and will also work with real human fact checkers.

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