Facebook fights sensational health claims

Facebook Inc. said it’s taking steps to curb postings about sensational medical or health-related claims, after a report said the social media site and YouTube were being overrun with content containing potentially harmful information about alternative cancer treatments.

The Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation into the two sites, prompting Facebook to address the situation in a blog post Tuesday. The Journal found that widespread misinformation sometimes appeared alongside advertisements, videos or pages for proven treatments.

In a post Tuesday, Facebook said that last month it made two changes to its ranking algorithms to reduce posts with exaggerated or sensational health claims and those attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims.

The company said it’s doing this in a way similar to how it’s handled other low-quality content: by identifying phrases commonly used in the posts and then showing them lower in the News Feed.

Tech companies are increasingly trying to battle a proliferation of dubious health-related content on their sites, and are also aggressively trying to weed out hate speech and political misinformation.

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Facebook fights sensational health claims