Some fake news websites are losing their verification status on their Facebook pages. If the pattern continues and Facebook is finally taking this meaningful action against the dissemination of fake news, it would be a welcome move by the social media platform.
Previously, Facebook had given a grey check mark to the Facebook page of fake news website Neon Nettle and blue check marks to the page of fake news website Freedom Daily and to The People’s Voice, a page operated by the owners of fake news website YourNewsWire. Facebook’s policy states that the purpose of the blue check mark next to a name is simply to confirm that the page is “the authentic Page” for a “public figure, media company or brand” and that the grey check mark indicates that it’s an “authentic Page for this business or organization.” But the symbols, like Twitter’s verification system, lend legitimacy to these pages and their posts.
As of January 18, the pages for Freedom Daily, Neon Nettle, and The People’s Voice no longer have check marks on their pages. It seems unlikely that multiple fake news website pages would lose their verifications within a seemingly similar span of time without Facebook’s involvement. This would also not be the first time Facebook penalized a fake news website’s page: In November, fake news website Liberty Writers’ verified page was taken down and its links blocked on Facebook. On the other hand, the changes do not guarantee that these pages will remain unverified; in November, YourNewsWire mysteriously lost its grey check mark, but it soon was restored.
If Facebook has decided to stop enabling fake news websites through its verification process, it has more work to do: Multiple other pages of fake news websites that Media Matters has noted are verified remain verified alongside YourNewsWire, such as American News, Conservative Tribune, Eagle Rising, Right Wing News, The Political Insider, and Prntly. The possible moves taken so far against these types of pages, if permanent, would be a positive step by Facebook, and is one of the steps Media Matters recommended Facebook take toward solving its fake news problem when it named Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 2017’s Misinformer of the Year.
Facebook’s fake news problem remains deep, but denying a stamp of authenticity to websites that push blatant falsehoods would help.