Facebook outlines plans for combating false news

Facebook expands the scope and capabilities of its fact-checking program

During the Fighting Abuse at Scale conference, Facebook and other tech companies discussed plans for combating fake news and misinformation online. While the social media giant said at the time that it was not interested in playing the role of a full-time fact-checker, it’s now stepping up its fact-checking program, expanding its scope both in terms of geography and depth of research.

Since Facebook debuted its third-party fact-checking program last spring, it has grown the initiative in 14 countries, and now has plans to scale even further throughout 2018. The social network will also be expanding its program to fact-check not only text but photos and videos as well. “This includes those that are manipulated (e.g. a video that is edited to show something that did not really happen) or taken out of context (e.g. a photo from a previous tragedy associated with a different, present-day conflict),” Facebook noted in an announcement.

The company will also be using machine learning in order to increase fact-checking efficiency and bringing leveraging Schema.org’s Claim Review, an open-source tool used by a number of tech companies and fact-checking organizations.

Finally, Facebook is working more closely with academics in order to determine the “role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally.” The recently established elections commission is currently gearing up to become an independent organization, and in the coming weeks, is due to release  a website and a request for proposals in order to determine the “volume and effects of misinformation on Facebook.”

“We’re concerned when falsehood becomes an industry,” Facebook engineering director Michael McNally said previously.

These efforts build upon initiatives Facebook has already introduced and while Facebook’s regular updates are certainly helpful, they aren’t always new. For example, Facebook had already been using A.I. and machine learning to speed up the fact-checking process and has been attempting to minimize the effect of misinformation by making fake posts appear smaller on your timeline.

“We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson told Tech Crunch.

The company also already displays related articles beneath false stories. These articles will come from reputable news sources and fact-checking organizations and are meant to provide a counterbalance to the fake stories.

In total, Facebook says that its new policies can reduce the spread of fake news stories by as much as 80 percent. It isn’t an easy task, but Facebook says it is committed to helping solve the problem of fake news.

Updated on June 21: Facebook is expanding its fact-checking initiatives.

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