Twitter plans ‘fake news’ button, but fears it could be gamed

30 Jun 2017

Image: Pathdoc/Shutterstock

Twitter announces new effort to tackle the spread of fake news.

Still in prototype phase, social media giant Twitter is exploring adding a new feature that would let users flag fake news.

The function would allow users to flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information.

Future Human

While Facebook has received most of the flak for fake news generated before, during and after the US elections, Twitter knows that it too is often used as a vehicle for such activity.

Twitter is also aware that as well as the emergence of a market for fake accounts, extremists are using the site as a recruiting platform.

The use of Twitter by trolls to threaten women and minorities is also a problem that the social media site is keen to wipe out.

Policy of truth

According to the The Washington Post, citing sources at Twitter, the new button would appear in a tiny tab in a drop-down menu alongside tweets.

The Pew Research Center said that two-thirds of American adults admit to confusion about basic facts and events because of fake news.

Third-party firm Twitter Audit found that 41pc of Trump’s followers were bots or fake accounts compared to 34pc of Hillary Clinton’s.

However, Twitter’s plans are moving slowly as there are concerns that people with varying views and biases could game the system and manipulate it by flagging genuine stories as fake news if they are contrary to their opinions or viewpoints.

Meanwhile, Facebook has rolled out a system that allows users to ‘dispute’ certain news items and, if enough users contest the story, then independent fact-checkers row in.

Google is also encouraging the public to help spot pages that are misleading or offensive.

Updated, 9.21am, 30 June 2017: This article was updated to amend Twitter Audit figures. 

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years