You wouldn’t surprise me if you said you didn’t like Facebook. If you told me you loathe its algorithm and the information bubbles it generates. Or if you started complaining about the amount of false and hideous information it harbors. You are not alone.
But after this week, it is quite fair to recognize Facebook as the leading platform in the battle against misinformation. Google, Twitter and other tech companies are running way behind when it comes to creating projects and interacting with fact-checkers.
At the beginning of this week, in only 48 hours, Facebook made two big announcements related to the projects it maintains with the international fact-checking community.
On Monday, the platform announced that the Third Party Fact-Checking Project, a program launched in 2017 that allows verified signatories to the International Fact-Checking Network to flag posts, videos and photos running in the News Feed as being false, has expanded to Instagram all over the planet.
Since August, U.S. fact-checkers have been participating in a pilot version of this project. For six months, they were the only ones in the entire world to receive content reported by Instagram users as being suspicious and, therefore, were able to publish verifications about them.
Now, checkers from all continents — writing in different languages — will also receive complaints from Instagram users and, when necessary, attach their fact-checks to the misleading pieces of content.
Facebook said that, as it happens in the News Feed, posts considered false on Instagram will not be deleted. They will no longer appear on the “Explore” and “Hashtags” pages and, therefore, will have less visibility.
To report suspicious content, users will only have to click on the three dots in the upper right corner of each Instagram post, choose “it’s inappropriate” and then “false information.” By taking these steps, citizens can help fact-checkers finding dubious content on the platform.
On Tuesday, Facebook announced a new pilot project starting in the United States. It is a totally new program that involves ordinary citizens in the verification of “obvious online hoaxes.”
Facebook said that the group of “community reviewers” will not be able to flag anything as false in the platform and that their work will not have any impact on the News Feed’s algorithm. The group is being hired to produce and send to fact-checkers a preliminary analysis of the truthfulness of a post, a video and/or a photo. The idea behind this project is to expedite — and perhaps increase — the fact-checks produced and published within the platform.
According to Henry Silverman, Facebook’s product manager, “community reviewers” can check, for example, if a celebrity has actually died and facilitate the work for fact-checkers.
“If there is a post claiming that a celebrity has died and community reviewers don’t find any other sources reporting that news — or see a report that the same celebrity is performing later that day — they can flag that the claim isn’t corroborated,” he said.
The fact-checking community has told Facebook it is worried about the impartiality of “community reviewers.” The group also has doubts about how these reviewers will be chosen and what their technical skills look like. But fact-checkers agree it is time to see what results can come out of this new interaction.
The amount of false news circulating on Facebook every day far exceeds the capacity professional fact-checkers have. So any external high-quality help in a controlled process can be appreciated.
It is also worth remembering that, in partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network, Facebook will have until February to choose 10 innovative projects that are capable of reducing misinformation worldwide.
The Fact-Checking Innovation Initiative received 95 applications and this week approved 81 of them for the second round. There are projects related to media literacy, tech development and fact-checking formats. Facebook is clearly looking to invest.
It is accurate — and fair — to acknowledge Facebook’s commitment.
Read the Spanish version of this article at Univision.
Note: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This column will return Jan. 9, 2020.
Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.