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Facebook Strives to Flag Fake News Before Germany Polls

Zacks Equity Research

Reportedly, Facebook Inc. FB will be testing a new set of tools to control the spread of fake news stories on its platform in Germany. The social media giant has already started testing these tools in the United States.

Media reports further add that German intelligence agencies have been on their toes as there are chances that fake news can possibly alter election results. Reportedly, Buzzfeed has found that there are many fake news about Merkel, who is campaigning for the fourth term as the chancellor, on Facebook. As a result, “pressure” has building up for Facebook to curb fake news on its platform.

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Media reports have quoted Facebook spokesperson saying "When we launched this in the US we said that we would expand the pilot into other countries over time. We've listened to our community and begun talks with other global partners, and the readiness of German partners allows us to begin testing in Germany. We expect to announce efforts in additional countries soon."

Per media reports, users in Germany can now flag stories that are false and then Facebook will send it to a third party verifier, Corrective for fact checking. If the third party finds any story as fake, Facebook will mark it as disputed.  

Last year, Facebook suffered a heavy blow when it was accused of suppressing conservative news and doing little regarding the spread of fake news on its platform. Fake news dissemination on Facebook has been widely regarded as the primary reason for the surprise victory of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Presidential elections. Not just Facebook, Twitter TWTR and Alphabet GOOGL have also been accused of spreading fake stories, resulting in the surprising outcome of the presidential elections.

After rejecting the allegations initially, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg changed his stance on the matter. In an extensive blog post on Nov 19, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is taking misinformation “seriously” but added that the “percentage of misinformation is relatively small.” So far, the initiatives taken up by Facebook include improvement of technical systems to develop more efficient detection of false stories. It is also working to help its 1.79 billion users report fake stories.

Apart from availing the help of third parties for better verification of news and the option of “labeling stories” that are flagged, the company had earlier declared that it is “raising the bar for stories that appear in related articles under links in News Feed.” Facebook said it will also scrutinize ads that promote bogus stories for monetary gains. Lastly, it said that it will work with the entire news industry to improve its fact checking systems.

Facebook made the “Trending” feature more automated to minimize human intervention. The company has done away with the need to write description for trending topics that required news curators to do the job. Instead, the trending topics now just have a hashtag and display the number of people talking about it.

At present, Facebook has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).  In the past one year, Facebook’s shares have generated a return of 35.14%, compared with the Zacks Internet Services industry’s return of 16.36%.

A better-ranked stock in the wider technology space is Veeva Systems Inc. VEEV, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

In the trailing four quarters, Veeva Systems has recorded a positive average earnings surprise of 47.77%.

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