Fact checkers are attempting to reduce fake news on Facebook

Chris Batson / Alamy Stock Photo

Facebook has launched a UK arm to its international fact-checking initiative following more than two years of criticism about how it has handled the spread of misinformation.

Full Fact, a fact-checking charity, will review stories, images and videos that have been flagged by users and rate them based on their accuracy. The charity’s efforts will focus on misinformation it perceives to be the most damaging, such as fake medical information, false stories around terror attacks and hoaxes around elections.

Facebook’s leadership has been repeatedly criticised by politicians in recent years as problems of misinformation and foreign interference have plagued elections around the world.

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Social media companies have faced the threat of regulation if they fail to act on false information on their platforms, and Facebook has been called to answer questions from law-makers in numerous countries on the subject.

Under the new measures, Facebook users will be able to report posts they fear may be inaccurate for Full Fact to review, while other suspicious posts will be identified by Facebook technology. Posts will then be labelled as true, not true or a mixture when users share them. If a piece of content is proven to be false, it will appear lower in Facebook’s news feed, but will not be deleted.

Claire Wardle, executive director of First Draft, which worked with Full Fact on the 2017 UK general election, said the biggest problem is that Facebook holds all the information about the project, making it almost impossible for independent auditors to see whether it is working.

“Facebook has this global database of online misinformation and that is something that should be available to researchers and the public,” said Wardle.

Facebook first launched its fact-checking initiative in December 2016, after concerns were raised about hoaxes and propaganda spread around the election of Donald Trump. The social network now works with fact checkers in more than 20 countries to review content on its platform, but studies disagree as to whether their efforts have been effective.

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