In its efforts to combat the spread of false news online (whether by malicious people who knew it was propaganda, or through the wishful thinking of overly-credible sheep who saw a post as confirmation of a value they already held), Facebook experimented with flagging stories as “disputed by third-party fact-checkers.” It turns out that a significant number of users were motivated by the “disputed” flag to share that item even more. Now FB is trying a less aggressive approach, one which recalls “disemvoweling” (the practice, circa late 2000s, of removing all the vowels from offensive comments — a balance between preserving free speech and enforcing community standards). In Facebook’s implementation, a disputed “false news” story is granted less space in user’s feeds. The idea is still there, but the image and headline are reduced in size, which presumably reduces the emotional jolt that might spur a knee-jerk “share.”
[R]ather than call more attention to fake news, Facebook wants to make it easier to miss these stories while scrolling. When Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers verify an article is inaccurate, Facebook will shrink the size of the link post in the News Feed. “We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to me.