Full Fact’s first transparency report about Facebook’s project and Facebook’s first answer about it

July 31, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

British people woke up on Tuesday talking about the program Facebook built to fight misinformation on its Newsfeed. 

The British group Full Fact released its first transparency report on Monday: a 45-page document about the work this fact-checking platform has done for Mark Zuckerberg’s platform since January. The report made The Times’ front page (both in the print and digital versions of the newspaper). 

Within the report was Full Fact’s 10 suggestions to improve Facebook’s Third Party Fact-Checking Program (3PFC) and some of them were also picked up by other mainstream national news outlets like the Guardian, ITV, the Daily Mail and the Metro, besides other tech and science publications, including Mashable, New Scientist, Nieman Lab and MIT Technology Review.

The report says that the 3PFC is worthwhile (Disclosure: All partners must be verified signatories of Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles), especially to tackle specific kinds of harmful content such as health and election interference and issue that arise after emergencies. Then the document presents in-depth points of view. British fact-checkers want Facebook to “continue developing tools that can better identify potentially harmful false content including repeated posts”; be explicit about machine learning and expand 3PFC to Instagram. They would also like to see other internet companies adopting projects like this. 

In an overview, the British organization explained that it has fact-checked 96 pieces of content since the beginning of the year and has received $171,800 for it. Now Full Fact wants more transparency from Facebook about the impact of this work. Did their fact checks reach a wide audience?

The other impressive side of this report — and something people also talked about — is the fact that, for the first time, such a detailed, transparent document came with Facebook’s response on it.

Here it is: “We are encouraged that many of the recommendations in the report are being actively pursued by our teams as part of continued dialogue with our partners, and we know there’s always room to improve.” 

Facebook assured they are working on scaling the impact of fact-checks through identical content matching and similarity detection and also developing their rating scale to account for a growing spectrum of types of misinformation. 

“We also agree that there’s a need to explore additional tactics for fighting false news at scale.”, wrote Facebook. “We look forward to continued collaboration with Full Fact and our more than 50 global fact-checking partners.”

This feedback offers proof that the company is actually more open and more available to hear fact-checkers — and really respond to them.

On June 21, during Global Fact 6, the International Fact-Checking Network’s annual summit in Cape Town, South Africa, IFCN facilitated a discussion for its verified signatories that are partners with Facebook in their Third-Party Fact-Checking Program, to foster a dialogue among partners for the advancement of the program and explore areas where IFCN can help them.

A total of 27 partners from around the world that were present in Cape Town for Global Fact 6 exchanged ideas about the project for about two hours and drafted an internal readout from the meeting. That document was sent to all 3PFC partners for their approval and then shared with Facebook as it was previously agreed both by the platform and the partners. It contained overall observations related to payments, tool functions and translations. The IFCN received feedback from Facebook regarding all the topics in less than three weeks and shared it with all 3PFC partners (including those that couldn’t be in Cape Town) earlier this week. 

For Baybars Orsek, director of IFCN, these are tangible outputs from the meeting in South Africa. 

“We fostered a candid conversation among the partners who have been involved in the partnership with Facebook. And now we see a promising approach by Facebook in communicating with this group more broadly,” he said.

A range of fact-checkers, again verified signatories to IFCN’s Code of Principles, also met Facebook representatives at the Global Fact 6 conference and heard more about Facebook’s plans around the community review product. The project, still under discussion, would consist of having more Facebook users analyzing the quality of posts published on the newsfeed. But before pushing this ahead, Facebook wanted to hear fact-checkers’ opinions and concerns in Cape Town as they have publicly commented on this earlier.

*Note: The author of this article is the founder of Agência Lupa, one of the 3PFC’s partners.