Facebook cracks down on misleading health posts

Facebook is cutting down on posts making misleading or exaggerated health claims as part of a drive to improve the quality of information in its news feed.

As part of a response to criticism that Facebook has been used to influence elections and the 2016 Brexit referendum, the social media giant is thought to be gradually moving users away from news feeds and into groups where people can network and share ideas.

However for now Facebook has tweaked its algorithms to filter out misleading information in order to improve its credibility with users.

As part of this drive, the site is attempting to minimise the amount of “health content” that is “sensational or misleading” said product manager Travis Yeh in a blog post.

Yeh said that last month Facebook made two updates to reduce posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims, and to reduce posts attempting to sell products or services based on health related claims.

For the first update, Yeh said that Facebook considers whether a post about health exaggerates or misleads, for example making a sensational claim about a miracle cure.

For the second update Facebook will target posts promoting a product or service based on a health-related claim – such as a medication or pill claiming to help people lose weight.

Facebook is handling this in a similar way to how it has previously reduced low-quality content such as clickbait.

The site’s algorithms will identify phrases commonly used in these posts to predict which posts might include sensational health claims or promotion of products with health-related claims, and show these lower in the news feed.

Most pages will not see significant changes, according to Yeh, but posts with sensational health claims or selling products with health-related claims will have reduced distribution.

Yeh added: “Pages should avoid posts about health that exaggerate or mislead people and posts that try to sell products using health-related claims. If a page stops posting this content, their posts will no longer be affected by this change.”

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.