Starting today, Facebook will have a team of community reviewers working in the U.S.

December 17, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

Facebook wants to help fact-checkers address false content faster. Starting Tuesday, as a pilot of a larger program that can be expanded worldwide, the platform will have a team of community reviewers analyzing “obvious online hoaxes” in the United States.

The final call about the veracity of a piece of content, however, will still be made by professional fact-checkers. (Disclosure: To be part of the Third Party Fact-Checking Program, organizations should be verified signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network.)

“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. Fact-checkers will then see this information as they review and rate the post,” said Henry Silverman, Facebook’s product manager, on a blog post published this afternoon.

The platform started building its community reviewers program at the beginning of the year and has had some conversations about it with fact-checkers in many countries. The company even had a session about this topic with a group of fact-checkers during Global Fact 6 — the international summit organized by IFCN in June in Cape Town, South Africa.

At this point, however, Facebook doesn’t disclose the number of community reviewers who will be verifying content in the United States, nor has it said how long the American pilot will last. The platform said the team of reviewers is being hired by Appen and that the company “will make staffing adjustments based on scaling needs.”

According to the platform, community reviewers will work with potentially false posts that are detected by Facebook’s machine learning model and will be asked to identify the main claim in each post. After that, they will have to find sources that can either support or refute that claim, to conclude whether a post is corroborated or not.

“Fact-checking partners will be able to see the collective assessment of community reviewers as a signal in selecting which stories to review and rate. In doing so, we hope that community reviewer evaluations can help fact-checkers focus their time and expertise on the items that have the highest likelihood of being false,” said Facebook.

To measure the success of this pilot program and see if it can be expanded worldwide, Facebook said it plans to use its own research tools, seek help from academics and also hear feedback from U.S-based third-party fact-checking organizations.

In previous conversations with fact-checkers, Facebook recognized that it would be important to make sure the team of community reviewers are not biased.

When asked about this today, the platform said data company YouGov has conducted an independent study to determine that reviewers should be are representative of Facebook’s community in the United States This means the group will reflect “the diverse behaviors, demographics, and viewpoints — including political ideology — of Facebook users.”

Besides, the company said that the same piece of content will be reviewed by multiple community reviewers and that the results of that collective research will be surfaced to fact-checkers. Facebook also said it plans to audit the team of reviewers on an ongoing basis.

Facebook said Appen sources, vets, selects and qualifies community reviewers who are paid as part-time contractors (not per piece of content they verify). The platform also said reviewers will need to pass “a background check and meet a series of requirements and criteria” but did not specify what those would be.

Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa. She can be reached at ctardaguila@poynter.org.