Facebook on Thursday unveiled a multi-part plan to fight fake news that includes teaming up with fact-checkers in the United States to cut down on the reach of bogus stories.
The plan (which Poynter's International Fact-checking Network is involved with) represents the first time Facebook has given fact-checkers the ability to verify news on its platform, and comes after months of public debate about the social media giant's role in spreading inaccurate information.
Beginning today, fact-checkers at ABC News, FactCheck.org, the Associated Press, Snopes and Politifact will be given access to a tool created by Facebook to evaluate stories that may be inaccurate. Only stories that have previously been flagged as fake by users will be submitted for consideration by fact-checkers.
If fact-checkers agree that the story is misleading, it will appear in News Feeds with a "disputed" tag, along with a link to a corresponding article explaining why it's false. Posts labeled this way will appear lower in Facebook's News Feed, and readers will receive a warning while sharing them.
Facebook's plan is a pilot program and will only be rolled out to a fraction of users in the United States.
Adam Mosseri , the vice president of product for News Feed at Facebook, explained the plan in an announcement Thursday, saying that the social network's employees could not "become arbiters of truth ourselves."
" We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully," Mosseri wrote. "We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations."
To decide which news organizations should be given access to its fact-checking tool, Facebook is using the list of signatories to a code of principles outlined by the International Fact-checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted by Poynter. Being a signatory to the network's code of principles — which require transparency of sourcing and funding, among other things — is a minimum condition to be verified as a fact-checker on the platform.
The social network then determines which fact-checkers are admitted.
In addition to third-party fact-checking, Facebook is also taking several steps to disrupt the spread of fake information. As of today, users can click on the upper right hand corner of a post and flag it on Facebook. The social network is also experimenting with adjusting the News Feed rank of stories that are read but shared at a significantly lower rate, which is one indicator that an article might be misleading.
Facebook is also taking steps to disrupt the business model for spammers that pass themselves off as genuine news organizations. During the election, several news organizations, including BuzzFeed, The Washington Post and The New York Times, examined how fake news peddlers were turning falsehoods into income. Facebook has hampered tactics employed by those spammers, including cutting down on spoof domains and policing sites that consistently spread false information.
Mosseri concluded his note by restating Facebook's emphasis on providing stories that are "authentic and meaningful."
"It's important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful," Mosseri wrote. "We're excited about this progress, but we know there's more to be done. We're going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right."