Facebook will deny ads to repeat promoters of fake news

Sharing network hopes to hit hoaxers where it hurts

After last year's disabling of users' ability to block ads, Facebook plans to reject ads from those who promote fake news.

In November 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially downplayed his company's role in distributing misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election. "Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes ... [making] it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other," he said.

Since then, the company has come under increasing pressure to deal with misleading content. Speaking at a Senate hearing in February, James Clapper, then serving as Director of National Intelligence, said Russia used fake news to influence the election.

In a post published on Monday, Facebook said it has extended its existing ban on monetizing false stories to the publishers themselves.

Past policy has been to disallow advertisers from promoting stories deemed false by third-party fact checking organizations. Going forward, Facebook plans to refuse to allow repeat offenders – those using its Pages product – to buy ads at all.

"If Pages repeatedly share stories marked as false, these repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to advertise on Facebook," said product managers Satwik Shukla and Tessa Lyons.

The pair observe that fake news is harmful. "It makes the world less informed and erodes trust," they said.

Facebook, they said, is working to reduce the incentives for creating fake news, to craft code that limits its distribution, and to label lies. The company has said it believes "a lot of fake news is financially motivated."

In February, Zuckerberg addressed these and related issues in a lengthy open letter. He said that rather than banning misinformation, Facebook would focus on "surfacing additional perspectives and information, including that fact checkers dispute an item's accuracy."

The social ad giant has not disclosed how much sharing needs to be done to qualify for sanctions, and it isn't severing all ties with the promulgators of propaganda. It may reinstate offenders' ad buying powers if they stop sharing fake news.

Facebook didn't immediately response to a request for comment. ®

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