The term "fake news" has been on everyone's mind lately, and Facebook is one of the worst culprits. Not the site itself, of course, but people who create sham accounts for that purpose. And while Facebook can't technically be blamed for the actions of others, it also can't have a blind eye.
In August of last year, Facebook made the decision to replace its Trending Topics team with an algorithm. In other words, the team of people who were once paid to sift through the trends and weed out the fakes were replaced by a computer.
It wasn't long after that detrimental decision that Facebook suffered from an onslaught of criticism over fake news stories that slipped through the cracks. Remember when Megyn Kelly was fired from Fox News because she was a secret liberal? Or how about that time Brad Pitt was found dead after his split from Angelina Jolie hit the press?
Obviously, those things never happened. Still, those stories and plenty of others made the rounds on Facebook and other social media platforms. Partly because 50 percent of people click on anything sent to them, making social media the perfect breeding grounds for scammers.
In an effort to rebuild its reputation, Facebook began fighting back. Last fall, the social media giant cracked down on sites that were known to share misleading posts.
Now, that effort is reaching even further as Facebook is rolling out changes that will make it harder for these fake accounts to be created in the first place. These new features will also hunt out patterns that give fake accounts away, such as repeated posts that contain the same content, or an excessive amount of posts each day.
These changes have already been rolled out in other countries, which led to the discovery of more than 30,000 sham Facebook accounts in France alone. All of these accounts were swiftly shut down. However, it's only a drop in the bucket.
When will you see these new features?
It's not likely that these Facebook features will show up in your individual account settings since the changes being made are for the platform as a whole. However, just because there's no button to click or setting to turn "On" or "Off" doesn't mean that the impact won't be noticeable.
With these improvements, the good news is your Facebook feed should be cleaned up and you'll see fewer and fewer unreliable stories.
Still, this doesn't mean you should let off your guard. Facebook shammers and scammers won't be taking a vacation, or even pausing for a quick nap. In fact, just earlier this week we warned you about five dangerous Facebook scams that are spreading right now.
Stay safe on Facebook
Just like anything, there are pros and cons to having your Facebook account. For most, those pros outweigh the cons, and that's why it's even more important that you use caution. Here are some quick ways you can avoid scams and protect your account against various threats.
- Be cautious with links - If you get a notification or see a post that you find suspicious, don't click on its links. It's better to type the website's address directly into a browser than clicking on a link. Before you ever click on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see where it is going to take you. If the destination isn't what the link claims, do not click on it.
- Do an online search - If something seems shady, you should do an online search on the topic. If it's a scam, there are probably people online complaining about it and you can find more information.
- Watch for typos - Scams are infamous for having typos. But, then again, so are social media posts!
- Update your Facebook security settings - If it's been a while since you tweaked your settings, it's a good idea to run through Facebook's security checkup. Keeping your account private and secure can help you stay out of sight from hackers and scammers.