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Facebook posts fake-news ads in newspapers ahead of UK vote

The social network is resorting to physical media to try to ensure that people can spot fake news.

The ad campaign features in major British newspapers.

Facebook launched a UK newspaper campaign on Monday warning British citizens to be wary of fake news in the lead up to the General Election on June 8.

The social network took out ads in major papers including The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, which list ten things its users should look out for when deciding whether to trust information they read online. The tips include checking headlines, URLs, photos and dates.

The spread of fake news has been a problem online for years, but blew up during the US presidential election last year. Facebook resorting to physical media to warn people about fake news is an indication of how widespread the problem has become and the perceived potential for it to impact the outcome of elections.

"People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we," Simon Milner, Facebook's director of policy for the UK in a statement. "That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news."

The social network put new measures in place in April for identifying and removing fake accounts responsible for spreading fake news, added Milner. The company claims to have removed tens of thousands of fake accounts as a result of this. It is also working with others including Google through partnerships like Full Fact and First Draft to tackle the problem.

'We can't solve this problem alone," said Milner. "We are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organisations, so they can independently assess facts and stories."

A BBC Panorama investigation will be broadcast in the UK on Monday evening revealing the extent to which fake news played a role in both the 2016 US presidential election and the EU referendum that took place in the UK last June.

Facebook's top ten tips for spotting fake news:

  • Be sceptical of headlines
  • Look closely at the URL
  • Investigate the source
  • Watch for unusual formatting
  • Consider the photos
  • Inspect the dates
  • Check the evidence
  • Look at other reports
  • Is the story a joke?