Facebook releases new guidelines to address publisher concerns in its fight against fake news

Facebook has released new guidelines that outline how publishers can adapt to the company’s efforts to fight back against fake/false news and other low-quality content.

Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri unveiled the guidelines at an event this morning at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where he said they don’t represent any changes to Facebook’s approach — they’re just a way for publishers to understand the strategy.

He added that Facebook’s efforts in this area are “targeted at bad actors.” But for legitimate publishers, the guidelines can still be important to “make sure you don’t get caught up in the crosshairs.” They fall into the three broad areas.

First, there’s the importance of meaningful, informative content. For publishers, that means both understanding what their audience wants and also creating fast-loading mobile web experiences.

Second, there’s accurate, authentic content. That means publishers should avoid clickbait (such as withholding information in a headline or exaggerating the content), as well as content that’s misleading or that the publisher doesn’t have rights to.

Third, Facebook is emphasizing “safe, respectful behavior.” That means avoiding sexually explicit content, hate speech and other things that might violate Facebook’s community standards.

After describing the guidelines, Mosseri answered questions from CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis and other journalists. First up was a discussion of the recent test that removes Page posts (including those from news publishers) from the News Feed unless they’re promoted through advertising.

For publishers worried that this means there will be no way for them to reach their audience on Facebook except through ad campaigns, Mosseri said, “I don’t think there’s any version of the world where we launch this as it is.”

He didn’t get specific about how it would work when and if it rolls out more broadly. However, he did note that even though most of the discussion has focused on public versus private content, there’s also “hybrid” content, where (say) your mother posts a link from The New York Times. Presumably, those kinds of links would not be hidden by these potential changes.

Jarvis also asked how Facebook’s partnerships with third-party fact checkers are going. Mosseri emphasized that these partnerships are just “the most tangible part of what we do” and “a much smaller part of a larger effort.”

In fact, he said Facebook is trying to fight false news in a number of ways, including eliminating the financial incentives to post this news, reducing the distribution/ranking of false news (that’s where the outside party fact checkers fit in) and giving people more information and context about what they read.

For what it’s worth, he said, “We haven’t seen huge flare ups” in false news this year, not even around some of the recent elections. He admitted Facebook can’t necessarily “claim too much credit” here, but it could be a sign that the company’s efforts to fight false news, as well as its public discussion of those efforts, are helping.