TIME Social Media

Facebook’s Going to Start Weeding Out Fake News Stories

But don't worry — The Onion is safe

Get ready to see less “news” stories about Santa Claus truthers and dinosaur sightings in Utah proliferating on your Facebook feed.

The social media platform announced in a blog post Tuesday that it is making a concerted effort to decrease the number of hoaxes and misleading stories in users’ News Feeds.

Sample “hoax” post included in its press release Facebook

“People often share these hoaxes and later decide to delete their original posts after they realize they have been tricked,” Facebook explains. “These types of posts also tend to receive lots of comments from friends letting people know this is a hoax, and comments containing links to hoax-busting websites.”

Internal data shows that people are twice as likely to delete a post after receiving a friend’s clarifying comment.

Users are given the option to report a new story as false.

Facebook’s instructions on how to report fake news stories Facebook

While Facebook won’t delete or fact-check the content, it will not only reduce the distribution of posts that have been reported as false but also add a warning to future sharers.

But don’t worry — this doesn’t mean The Onion is going anywhere.

Facebook clarified that users rarely reported satirical content, so that humorous genre won’t be impacted.

TIME Companies

Facebook’s Hiring Spree Signals New Tech Offensive

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a Reuters interview at the University of Bogota
President, founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a Reuters interview at the University of Bogota on Jan. 14, 2015. Jose Gomez—Reuters

The social networking giant aims to add nearly 1,200 new employees to its ranks

Facebook is hiring, big time.

The social networking company’s recent acquisitions and investments in several tech companies, which specialize in niche markets like drone production, virtual reality and data centers, is helping drive the latest round of recruitment, according to Reuters.

“We are an ambitious company run by an ambitious CEO,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, told Reuters. “Our users are growing and our business is growing and we want to support that.”

Facebook reportedly had 8,348 full-time employees at the end of last September and is looking to hire at least 1,200 new staff members in the coming months.


TIME Crime

3 Ways Facebook Might Just Save Your Life Someday

A thumbs up or "Like" icon at the Facebook main campus in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 2012. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Facebook could be the future of public safety

What do 1.35 billion people across the world have in common? They’re using Facebook every month.

No social network, smartphone or language has ever connected the number of people that Facebook does. And that unparalleled reach — not to mention how much time people spend on the site — has given the site a sense of public responsibility, as evidenced by the company’s Tuesday announcement that it will start showing Amber Alerts for missing children in users’ News Feeds. That marks one of Facebook’s most organized forays into public safety, efforts that have also included Ebola donation banners and a feature making it easier to let friends know you’re safe when disaster strikes.

Facebook is still foremost a private, friend-to-friend space. But the introduction of sponsored posts, Pages, Groups and News Feed has also turned it into a modern-day bulletin board: a place to share digital flyers about missing persons and pets, wanted criminals and unsolved crimes, ongoing crises and calls-to-action. And the lion’s share of Facebook users — 1.12 billion every month — access the site on mobile devices, meaning the site has far more immediacy and penetration than any public safety system before it.

Facebook is still in its early days of experimenting with ways to leverage its scale to serve as a safety platform. But if the motivation behind putting Amber Alerts on Facebook is that information spread via the site has helped bring missing children back home before, then we should expect Facebook to launch even more ways to help the public — some of which might just save your life someday.

Here are some possibilities:

An alternative for dialing 9-1-1

Facebook has been used as a “text to 9-1-1″ for those who can’t call the police directly due to service limits or threats of violence. In 2011, a Utah mother and her son were rescued from a five-day abduction after the woman, who didn’t have phone access, snuck into a closet with a computer and posted a Facebook status asking for help. Last year, an American climber fell into an 80 ft. crevasse in the Himalayas, only to be recused after he posted a plea for help on Facebook. And over the summer, a 10-year-old girl posted a plea for help after a tree fell on her dad and there wasn’t any cell service.

It wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to see Facebook establish an emergency account, that, when messaged, relayed information to police. Facebook can automatically geotag posts and messages via smartphone (if you’ve granted it permission to do so), letting responders know your whereabouts. That’s a level of location accuracy that neither texting nor wireless calling to 9-1-1 can provide — a problem that’s currently on the government’s agenda.

Medical help via crowdsourcing

Sharing photos on Facebook has resulted in people getting medical advice or attention. In 2010, a British nurse was flipping through photos of a friend’s daughter when she noticed the two-year-old was displaying signs of eye cancer, and advised her friend to seek medical attention. In 2011, a father shared a photo of his son, who had developed a strange facial rash, with a doctor he was friends with on Facebook. The doctor advised him to seek medical treatment, and his son was diagnosed with leukemia. In both cases, parents were urged to seek treatment for their children before they might have otherwise.

Facebook wouldn’t be the first to organize this digital doctor’s appointment: There’s already a photo-based diagnosis app called Figure 1, which has been touted as an “Instagram for doctors.” It allows users to upload photos of themselves before getting advice from medical professionals, who must be verified to take part. It’s a way for patients to access on-the-go, free healthcare, but also for doctors to learn more about medicine. Still, the one thing Figure 1 lacks is the user base of Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram, which boasts 300 million monthly active users.

In this regard, Facebook could leverage its massive user base to make medical miracles happen. Take bone marrow transplants, for example: Potential marrow donors must register and provide DNA samples before they’re matched. This naturally limits the donor pool and lowers patients’ odds of receiving a transplant. One bone marrow donor, who was matched to a leukemia patient, has spoken out about how a Facebook advertisement drove him to register. There are several national campaigns to invite donors to register, but Facebook’s reach is on a whole other level.

Finding missing pets

Though it’s hard to imagine an Amber Alert for missing pets, Facebook could leverage its geolocation services to allow users to opt into hyperlocal notifications. Several Facebook Pages already exist for the purpose of sharing lost pet information — they’ve located missing pets and even kidnapped animals — but the regions they serve are often far too large: members of a lost dogs page for the state of Texas, for example, post pups several times per hour.

In the mean time, though, there’s the option of purchasing local Facebook ads. One pet owner who lost his cat in 2012 paid for his Facebook post to be promoted to 60,000 users nearby. Shortly after, a woman who had seen the cat then got in touch with the owner, who was later able to track down his cat with the new information.

TIME apps

Facebook Wants to Make You More Productive at Work

'Facebook at Work' is designed to boost productivity, rather than sap it

Facebook released an app for the workplace on Wednesday, offering a handful of test users access to a new site that looks like Facebook and feels like Facebook, but with a few key alterations.

The app, called “Facebook at Work,” breaks off co-workers into a standalone social network, Re/code reports. There, a team can share posts and images appropriate for the workplace. Users can also rest assured that personal posts, such as those polaroid pictures of your preschool class, won’t crop up on the professional feed unless a user feels a need to volunteer that sort of information.

To ensure workers have open conversations, the Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook will jettison its ad-based revenue model, stripping out ads from the site and assuring users that no one outside of the work network—neither marketers nor Facebook—will view the content.

The app is designed to offer an alternative form of communication to email, the Wall Street Journal reports, merging the pile of inbox messages into a continuous stream of communication. It also will pose a direct challenge to a growing number of work-oriented social networking sites, such as Microsoft’s Yammer and IBM’s Connections.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 13

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Paris Attacker Violence-Obsessed

Chérif Kouachi, one of the brothers responsible for the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo, was obsessed with violence, his mentor has revealed. Farid Benyettou said the pair last spoke two months ago to discuss previous attacks, and called Kouachi “guided by ignorance”

Facebook Predicts Your Personality

Researchers studied how Facebook Likes matched up with people’s own answers on personality tests — as well as those of their family and friends

Hackers Hit the Pentagon

The latest cyberwar skirmish involves an embarrassing breach of U.S. Central Command’s social-media accounts by alleged Islamist hackers

Watch the New Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer

The second trailer for Marvel’s eagerly awaited Avengers: Age of Ultron has been released, and it’s more sinister than ever. Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, among others, star in the superhero blockbuster, which hits theaters on May 1

Ohio State Wins 1st Playoff-Era Title, Upsetting Oregon 42-20

Ohio State can add the newest version of the national-championship trophy to a case that already has a bunch of the old ones. The Buckeyes’ Cardale Jones led Ohio State past Marcus Mariota and the Ducks 42-20 on Monday nightie Arlington, Texas

Divers Retrieve 2nd Black Box From AirAsia Crash

Divers have retrieved the crashed AirAsia plane’s second black box from the bottom of the Java Sea, giving investigators the essential tools they need to start piecing together what brought Flight 8501 down

1 Person Dies After Smoke Empties D.C. Metro Station

A spokeswoman for the metro system in Washington, D.C., says one person has died after smoke forced the evacuation of the L’Enfant Plaza station on Monday. At least six others were taken to the hospital with injuriesDogs Came to Americas Thousands of Years after Humans

They may be man’s best friend, but new research indicates that dogs arrived in the Americas thousands of years after humans did. According to a recent study, dogs only came to the region about 10,000 years ago

Ford Reveals Stunning New GT

After a nine-year hiatus, the iconic American automobile manufacturer unveiled the latest installation of the prized GT to ecstatic car aficionados at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday

Pakistan Executes 7 Militants During John Kerry’s Visit

Pakistani officials oversaw the execution of seven convicted militants across the country on Tuesday morning as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began the second day of his trip to the South Asian nation aimed at ramping up security and intelligence cooperation

Apatow to Cosby: ‘Go in Your Mansion and Disappear’

The director has mostly kept his criticisms of comedian Bill Cosby, whom dozens of women have accused of sexual assault, to a 140-character minimum. But he elaborated recently to say, among other beliefs, “I absolutely would like to see him in jail”

A Plane from New York to London Almost Went Supersonic

A British Airways flight traveling from New York to London made the trip in just 5 hours and 16 minutes at ground speeds of up to 1,200 km/h (745 mph)—just short of the sonic barrier—thanks to unusually strong winds

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TIME technology

7 Tips for Upping Your Social Media Game in 2015

Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are the co-authors of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users.

How to increase influence and gain followers

Less carbohydrates? Check. More exercise? Check. Now for the really important stuff: upping your social-media game. Social media–whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram—is here to stay and will remain important to enhancing your personal and professional relationships. Here are 7 things you can do to improve your social-media-facing face:

  1. Fix your avatar. Your avatar is the first thing that people judge. It should be your face, in focus, lit from the front, and asymmetrical. Don’t crop your face from a large, crappy cell phone picture. The purpose of an avatar is to convince people that you are likable, trustworthy, and competent. Don’t try to tell your life story with it.
  2. Update your bio. The second thing people look at to determine if you’re worth taking seriously is your bio. Is yours up to date and complete? This is the place to tell your life story. The more information that you provide, the more ways there are for people to connect with you. Your bio on social-media sites is just as important as your LinkedIn profile—hopefully you realize how important your LinkedIn profile is too.
  3. Add a photo or video to every post. You can double the effectiveness of your posts by including a picture or video. In the valley of text, the post with graphics is king. This may add a few minutes of effort, but no single action can make your posts better than adding some eye candy to every post. Power tip: you can add up to four pictures to a tweet.
  4. Master your camera. This is a corollary to the previous resolution. The camera in your phone is better than most cameras used by professional photographers until a few years ago. Here are some simple principles to observe to taking better pictures: turn your camera sidewards so that your pictures are more wide than tall; ensure that the source of light is in front of your subject, not behind it; get closer to your subjects—pictures of people do not need to capture them from head to toe, chest-up is good enough; shoot asymmetrical pictures (“rule of thirds”) because they are most interesting than positioning everything/everyone smack dab in the middle.
  5. Use a scheduling service (for example, Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout). Since we added effort by requiring photos and videos in posts, let us remove some now. These services enable you to write one post and share them on multiple services such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also schedule your posts for ideal times based on where your audience lives and their social-media consumption habits. (Disclosure: Guy advises Buffer.)
  6. Share at least one post per day. Think of social media as flossing but with greater benefits: enhanced relationships, greater visibility, and, seriously, fun. These goals are imminently achievable, but they require consistent effort over the course of several months to see results. You’ll have to stand by the side of a river a long time before a roast duck or social-media goodness flies into your mouth. Very few people post too much good stuff.
  7. Take the high road. This is the toughest resolution of them all. It’s not only hard to “win” online arguments, it’s also hard to prove that they are worth winning. The most important people in arguments are not the ones you’re taking on. The most important people are the ones who are watching your reaction, so take the high road and stay positive. If you can’t stay positive, then simply ignore the bozos, haters, and psychopaths. When it comes to social media, ignoring is bliss.

If you can stick with these power tips and resolutions, you’ll awesome-ize your social-media presences, and we promise that good things will happen. And by mid-2015, you’ll be thinner, healthier, and more popular. Than ever.

Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are the co-authors of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Social Media

For Twitter, Potential and Reality Are Increasingly at Odds

The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device. Bethany Clarke—Getty Images

Here's why 2015 will be the most important year in Twitter's short history

Twitter has seen its stock rallying lately, but not for reasons the company would like. On Jan. 6, it shot up 7% on rumors activist Carl Icahn was buying a stake. Right before Christmas, it also rallied 4% on another rumor CEO Dick Costolo would step down.

Costolo has outlined a long-term vision for the company, but it’s the rumors of the plans others have for Twitter that moves its stock higher. That’s because there have been two Twitters for a while–the premier publishing platform the company could be and the one that always seems to be falling short of that potential.

There’s the influential company that breaks big stories, hosts large-scale debates and writes history in real time. And there’s the troubled company that can be found in Facebook’s shadow. There’s the stock that’s trading 40% above its offering price. And the stock that’s lost more than half its peak value.

There’s the startup that everyone doubted the first time they used it. And there’s the company that has become an addiction to many. There’s the social media site that has proven to be an indispensable platform for people in the media industry. And there is the social media site that draws naysaying predictions from people in the media industry.

There is the social network that some argued was unmonetizable, and the one that saw revenue double to $1.3 billion in 2014. There is the company that promises a decade of revenue growth, and the one that hasn’t shown an operating profit for years. There is the company that can boast 284 million monthly users and a half billion tweets a day. And the company with a measly 284 million monthly users, less than Instagram’s and a faction of Facebook’s.

But here’s the thing: As time goes on, the world has less room for two Twitters. It may well be that when 2015 comes to a close, there will only be one. The only question is which one will it be? Twitter the success story? Or Twitter the falling star?

There’s no question which Twitter Costolo wants to see survive. Over the past several months, Costolo has been working on a plan to boost user growth and engagement, convert logged-out readers into monetizable users, and insert more ads into Twitter feeds without driving away users.

The pressure to deliver on these goals is on. After the resignation rumors, critics emerged to call for his removal, including a Harvard professor who dismissed Costolo as “a consultant.” But Twitter has seen a lot of reshuffling in its executive ranks, and further instability in its leadership won’t help.

Besides, it’s not clear who would do a better job at growing Twitter right now than Costolo, who understands the devilish balance the company needs to maintain in order to keep growing without driving away its core users–a process that requires time. Facebook had nine years as a private company before facing the pressures to grow profits (and its first post-IPO year was a bummer). Twitter had only seven.

The tension that divides the two Twitters–grow users, but also grow revenue by showing them ads–is one familiar to social networks. Push too hard on one and the other vanishes. Facebook succeeded by building an inimitable place for friends to connect in non-public conversations. But Twitter isn’t Facebook. Like the “microblog” it started out as, it’s closer in spirit to Web 1.0 publishing–that is, a one-to-many format, only on a much richer, social venue.

The problem is, many people are reading tweets without setting up or logging into accounts. Twitter reckons this passive audience is 500 million large. Still more could be drawn in if a Twitter platform made tweets a part of other mobile apps. Costolo has plans to address these issues, by making it easier for passive users to build profiles and create instant timelines, and by rolling out Fabric, a Twitter platform that developers can easily drop into their apps.

Twitter is also vowing to boost the percent of ads in a Twitter feed from 1.3% of tweets to 5%, which itself could boost annual revenue to $5 billion. In my own feed, I’ve noticed ads are as high as 7%, or one in every 15 tweets, although none have shown up yet in apps like Tweetbot.

Twitter is quick to caution that such figures aren’t formal estimates but mere projections of a potential. And there’s that potential Twitter again, the one that never seems to show up in reality. Costolo has made a credible case for more time to let his plans push Twitter closer to that potential growth. Transitioning to a new leader, or merging Twitter with Yahoo or Google, would only delay a transition that is already short on time.

Moving too quickly to push ads onto Twitter could also drive away more active users. And that would cripple the best part of Twitter–the public forum where events like Ferguson protests unfold online, where debates flourish, where strangers discuss sporting or television events, and where celebrities, politicians and–yes–investors connect with the public. If Icahn does amass a large stake in Twitter, he will probably announce it on Twitter.

So 2015 is shaping up to be for Twitter what 2013 was for Facebook: a make-or-break year. Facebook managed to win over investors by delivering on its promise for growth. Twitter is reaching a similar crossroads this year, and how well Costolo delivers on his vision will likely determine which Twitter is with us come 2016.

TIME Companies

Facebook Acquires Voice Recognition Startup Wit.ai

The 18-month-old company already has 6,000 developers using its platform

Voice recognition firm Wit.ai announced Monday that it was being acquired by Facebook.

The company, which makes software that recognizes words phrased in “natural language” as well as spoken words, is an 18-month-old startup based in Palo Alto, Calif. Six thousand developers already use its platform, which it says will remain free and open, to build voice-based interfaces for apps.

“Facebook’s mission is to connect everyone and build amazing experiences for the over 1.3 billion people on the platform – technology that understands natural language is a big part of that, and we think we can help,” Wit.ai said in the announcement.

“Wit.ai has built an incredible yet simple natural language processing API that has helped developers turn speech and text into actionable data,” Facebook told TechCrunch. “We’re excited to have them onboard.” The social network did not immediately disclose how much the deal was worth, Reuters reports.

TIME animals

Hundreds of Thousands Post Dog Photos on Facebook in Support of Teen Fighting Cancer

'Photo Doggies for Anthony' has gone viral

Animal therapy has gone digital.

Some 800k Facebook users, and counting, pledged to post pictures of their dogs online with the aim of cheering up a 16-year-old who is fighting cancer.

Arizona teen Anthony Lyons was on vacation with his grandparents in Oregon when he fell ill. He was quickly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

After witnessing the healing nature that therapy dogs provided Anthony in the hospital, friend of the family Roberta Lucero-Koron decided to create a Facebook event called “Photo Doggies for Anthony,” which encourages strangers to send in pictures of the their pets. The event quickly went viral, prompting more than half a million photos from around the world in days.

Unfortunately, Lyons had to take down the original event and create a new Facebook page due to Internet trolling.

“The old one got taken down because someone had to post pics of a dead roasted dog,” Anthony wrote on his Facebook. “It was a horrible thing of him to do but were back at it and still wanting as many dog pictures as you can send!:)”

While the original had 800k participants, the new page accumulated 21k in less than a day. There is also an Instagram account of Photo Doggies for Anthony.

“When I’m in the hospital bed all day my mom goes through all the pictures, she sees them all,” Anthony told a local Fox affiliate. “She’ll show me them all, doesn’t matter, but the special ones are the funniest ones.”

TIME People

Sarah Palin Defends Her Son: ‘At Least Trig Didn’t Eat the Dog’

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

PETA called Palin a "bizarrely callous woman"

A Facebook photograph of Sarah Palin’s son standing on a dog to reach the kitchen sink has led to a heated online exchange between animal rights activists and the politician-turned-reality-TV-star.

Just a day after Palin posted a series of photos of her six-year-old son Trig standing on a dog, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement calling Palin a “bizarrely callous woman.”

“PETA simply believes that people shouldn’t step on dogs, and judging by the reaction that we’ve seen to Sarah Palin’s Instagram photo, we’re far from alone in that belief,” said Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, according to the Associated Press.

Chill. At least Trig didn’t eat the dog,” Palin fired back in a lengthy Facebook post in reference to President Barack Obama’s admission that he ate dog as a child in Indonesia.

Palin also pointed out that Ellen DeGeneres shared a photo of a young girl using a dog to reach a bathroom sink last year without any reaction from PETA. DeGeneres was the advocacy organization’s 2009 woman of the year.

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