Social media has been great for bringing people together, especially when we have to stay apart. But it’s also a home for fake news, conspiracy theories, and misinformation. Unfortunately, popular platforms allow the garbage to spread like wildfire.
Facebook, however, implemented a system for reporting, reviewing, and censoring some false news. So anyone using the platform can easily and quickly flag a post to let Facebook know. The system isn’t perfect, but it at least provides some recourse for those trying to keep things honest.
Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Identify False News
I’m going to use this post from a friend (identity redacted for privacy and to avoid embarrassment). The poster shared the Plandemic “documentary” that has captured way too much attention. (If you’re looking for an explanation of why this video is fake, check out this, this, and this.)
So let’s say I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed and I see a friend has shared the video. If you’re not sure whether it’s accurate, the first thing to do is fact check it (I usually use Snopes). Once you’re certain it’s false, fake, or misleading, then it’s time to report it.
Step 2: Hit the Dots
On every single Facebook post, there are three dots located in the top right corner. I circled them in purple. If you’ve never clicked on them, you’ll want to do so now. As you can see, it brings up a drop-down list with a number of options. In this case, because we’re trying to report fake news, you’ll want to click on “Find support or report post.”
Step 3: Report as False News
Once you click on the option to report the post, this screen will pop up. You can see there are a variety of reasons why a post might be a problem. In this case, you’ll want to click on “False News.” Notice below that you are able to take additional steps against the person posting the fake news, like blocking or unfollowing them, but that’s entirely optional.
I think this screen is important so you can see the other reasons you should report a Facebook post. Unfortunately, most people don’t even realize that these options are available.
Important: the person who originally posted it won’t know that you’ve reported it as fake news.
As the person reporting the post, your work is done! Facebook will take it from here.
Step 4: The Hidden Post
So what happens after you report? The report is logged with Facebook. Independent fact checkers review the post. If it doesn’t meet with Facebook’s standards, it will be flagged like this post. It’s still possible for users to click on the post and the link, but they’ll be alerted up front that it isn’t accurate. Facebook is able to flag the false information across the platform. So reporting the post will alert Facebook for everyone who has shared the same link.
I know there’s some fear that Facebook is censoring unpopular opinions, or participating in the cover-up. But I haven’t seen any real evidence of that (yet). Obviously if that happened I would be concerned, and I’m sure there’s some way to seek redress. But a genuine opinion is different than people posting false factual information.
But I also think it’s important to have this feature. There’s so much false information spreading around and it’s so toxic. This stuff can actually harm people. The fact that Facebook asks humans to review it is also important, so activist groups can’t just report something the don’t like. So I’m glad Facebook created this review, especially if it’s going to work correctly.
Together we can help stop fake news. Remember: identify false news, hit the three dots, report a problem, false news. Happy reporting!