UPDATED 22:29 EDT / MAY 26 2021


Facebook announces big changes to suppress dubious news spreaders

Facebook Inc. today announced two major changes to its social network, one to hide users who continually share misinformation and another an option for viewers to hide Like count on posts.

Currently, if users share misleading content about crucial topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic or matters relating to national politics, that post will likely come with a fact-check warning. Now Facebook is taking things further by hiding all posts from people who have been accused of continually posting content that could be called fake news.

“Whether it’s false or misleading content about COVID-19 and vaccines, climate change, elections or other topics, we’re making sure fewer people see misinformation on our apps,” the company said in a blog post.

The user’s posts must have been marked as misleading or downright untruthful before they are relegated to obscurity. This will apply to individual users as well as to Pages. In the past, certain Pages may have gotten warnings or had their posts demoted, but this is the first time Facebook has brought out the cudgel on individuals.

Those people will at least receive warnings on their posts beforehand, although Facebook didn’t say how many warnings it will take for a person to go missing from people’s timelines, even if they’re also sharing photos of their cat. With the warnings, however, they will read that any more of this behavior could lead to a digital burial.

The other major change will be an opt-in feature that allows people to hide how many Likes their posts have received. This will be available for Facebook as well as Instagram. The option has been years in the making, with tests over those years trying to ascertain how positive it could be for a person’s mental health.

“We tested hiding like counts to see if it might depressurize people’s experience on Instagram,” Instagram said in a blog post. “What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some, and annoying to others, particularly because people use Like counts to get a sense for what’s trending or popular, so we’re giving you the choice.”

In the settings on both platforms, users can choose to have Like counts hidden to others, but they can still see the number of Likes themselves. Another option is to hide the count from oneself. Both options can be chosen.

Photo: Greg Bulla/Unsplash

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