Fake news on Facebook is something we have all come across and noise surrounding it has been growing louder in recent years. In response to this, Facebook has officially employed the fact-checking service, Full Fact.
There has been a barrage of fake news surrounding political events in the past few years - most notably the 2016 election in America. This has extended to the UK as well, with Brexit and the 2017 general referendum also having been impacted by fake news, manipulative Facebook ads and stories surrounding the NHS. This combined with the notorious Cambridge Analytica scandal, and everything else that’s followed, Facebook are in a place where they need to clean up their act. Enter a third-party fact-checking service.
Full Fact is a charity that was founded in 2010 and they’re on a mission to rid Facebook of its fake news problem. This is illustrated on their website:
“We don't take sides in any debate and don't support any political party or campaign. We've been quoted by politicians on all sides and corrected people on all sides. We have a cross-party Board of Trustees and safeguards in place at every level of our organisation to ensure our neutrality.”
“Factchecks alone are not enough to halt the spread of misinformation. We push for corrections where necessary, and work with government departments and research institutions to improve the quality and communication of information at source. We also provide a fact-checking toolkit to give people the tools they need to make up their own minds.”
Full-fact will now review all the content that users have reported for fake news on Facebook (like stories, images and videos), and they will rate them based on accuracy. Speaking about the recent partnership, Full Fact wrote some information about reporting fake news in a blog post, telling users that they will be able to flag a post that concerns them for the Full Fact team to review and deliver their verdict:
“Our team will identify and review public pictures, videos or stories and rate them as true, false or a mixture of accurate and inaccurate content. You can see the full rating system here. People will be told if a story they’ve shared, or are about to share, has been checked by Full Fact. They’ll be given the option to read more about the claim’s source — but won’t be stopped from sharing anything. False content will appear lower in news feeds, so it reaches fewer people.”
Satire and opinion pieces will be exempt, however, they will be working to tackle as much as they can - removing misinformation that could cause danger to health and safety, or that could have a negative impact on democratic processes. However, they urge that fake news isn’t going to be dispelled overnight, saying that it is ‘slow, careful, pretty unglamorous work’ and that they won’t be able to check all the claims made on the platform. Will Moy, director of Full Fact, has been clear on his mission to keep false news stories to a minimum, but to protect free speech in the process claiming that it’s getting ‘harder and harder to know what to trust’. Not all false news claims will be listed as false, there will be a variety of categories that include true, false or a mixture of accurate and inaccurate content.
Speaking on the partnership, Sarah Brown, training and news literacy manager at Facebook, said:
"People don't want to see false news on Facebook, and nor do we. We're delighted to be working with an organisation as reputable and respected as Full Fact to tackle this issue. By combining technology with the expertise of our fact-checking partners, we're working continuously to reduce the spread of misinformation on our platform."
- Sarah Brown
Facebook made claims at US Congress in April of 2018 that they were working to tackle fake news with fact checkers in 20 countries, however questions from UK parliament have gone unanswered in the matter - until this announcement. An example of how fake news can spread like wildfire is an article published by ‘What’s on Stage’ in August 2018, where an anonymous source details the fallout of a fake news story published on Twitter. In it, a big star is announced as the main role in a new production, a big star they don’t have billed to take the role. After the excitement of believing the rumour to be true, then discovering it isn’t, their morning snowballs into fire-fighting and sending disappointing news to staff, family, friends and (most importantly) people who were desperate to book tickets:
“I get on with answering the messages, and draft an email to all staff telling them that the rumours aren't true. It's amazing though how an innocuous, ultimately inaccurate, social media announcement can be so provocative.”
- Whats on Stage, Anon blog
When reading the article you can see this is a small example, but for any production, this could prove to be a bit hit on ticket sales and the reputation of the company; it’s not hard to see why companies and social media users alike are so adamant about an improvement in honesty on these platforms.
Overall, this is a good step to increase the transparency Facebook has with their audiences and will be incredibly useful to those who are targeted by a fake news story; like the theatre example above. So, long story short, if you see a fake news story - report it!