The AP isn’t abandoning its fact-checking partnership with Facebook. It’s expanding it.

April 9, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking

Two months after it was rumored to be quitting, the Associated Press has expanded its fact-checking partnership with Facebook.

In a press release sent to Poynter on Tuesday, the wire service announced that it will start debunking false content in Spanish for its American audience. The outlet will also publish corresponding fact checks in Spanish, making it the first of Facebook’s American partners to do so, according to the release.

The AP, along with fact-checking sites like (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact, Snopes and Factcheck.org, partnered with Facebook in December 2016 to find and debunk false news stories on the platform. Once a hoax is flagged as false, its future reach in the News Feed is decreased and a fact check is appended to it. (Disclosure: Being a signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles is a necessary condition for joining the project.)

Since then, the project has expanded to include false images and videos. And the program has had its shares of ups and downs.

In October, The Wall Street Journal reported that ABC News, one of Facebook’s original fact-checking partners, had dropped out of the project. In February, Snopes also withdrew, citing concerns with staff bandwidth.

How Facebook deals with misinformation, in one graphic

Following that announcement, several media outlets reported that the AP had also stopped fact-checking misinformation for the tech company. The wire service told the BBC that it was in “ongoing conversations” about its future participation in the partnership.

Tuesday’s news represents an end to those deliberations.

“As part of their work to review potentially false content on Facebook, AP will be doubling down in two new areas this year: Spanish-language content and video-based misinformation,” said Meredith Carden, head of news integrity partnerships at Facebook, in the release. “AP is among our 47 certified fact-checking partners who review content in 23 languages around the world and share our goal of stopping the spread of misinformation on our platform.”

Much ado has been made about Facebook’s collaboration with fact-checkers since its inception more than two years ago. Depending on who you ask, the project is either just PR for the company or an important way to minimize the reach of misinformation.

In December, Poynter polled 19 of Facebook’s fact-checking partners to see what they thought of their ongoing partnership with Facebook. What we found is that there’s still a lot of work to do — particularly when it comes to transparency about the impact of fact checks on false Facebook content.

But on the whole, fact-checkers generally agreed that the Facebook partnership has been mostly a net positive for their work. And the AP’s expanded commitment to the project is no exception to that finding.

“We have been talking with Facebook about how AP’s fact-checking can be the most impactful on their platform. The result is this dedicated effort to use the full newsgathering and reporting reaches of the AP to catch misinformation as early as possible and debunk it, whether it’s in another language or another format,” said Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee in the release. “Facts are the cornerstone of AP’s mission, and we remain committed to advancing the power of fact-based reporting everywhere we can.”