The tech website Tech Crunch unwittingly reported the story of a Facebook plugin that was apparently flagging fake news stories. Tech Crunch wrote
that it appeared Facebook was doing limited tests of the plug-in, adding:
“Facebook is showing red warning labels above fake news links in the News Feed for some users in what appears to be a limited test….Notably, this particular news story checks out as true and was also picked up by The New York Times and Reuters, among other reliable fact-checking outlets. That suggests that Facebook is blacklisting entire sites rather than individual news stories. It also demonstrates the potential for false positives in Facebook’s system, where accurate stories are slapped with the “not reliable” warning.”
The report seems to based on a screenshot obtained by a reader and sent to Tech Crunch.
There was just one problem. The entire story was fake. It is likely this shot was taken from a Chrome plug-in called BS Detector, which actually is real but not being used or tested by Facebook. They’re not the only ones to fall for the story, as they mentioned.
The error further illustrates the need for greater diligence among media outlets (including our own) and readers alike in determining the difference between false stories or satire and real reporting. As the internet becomes easier to access it also becomes easier to manipulate.
Tech Crunch has since issued an update and retraction.
Update: The feature appears to be an implementation of the Chrome plugin B.S. Detector, which some users took as a test by Facebook itself. We’ll continue to investigate but for now it looks like this is not a Facebook feature. Yes, the irony is rich.
Rich indeed, but it should be a lesson to all of us in the media that we cannot let our desperation for the jump on a story override our dedication to getting it right for our readers.