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Facebook’s aim to combat fake news with fact checkers & ‘untrustworthy’ shame label trial

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg © Stephen Lam / Reuters

Facebook is gearing up to battle the problem of “fake news” on social media with a new name-and-shame system involving independent fact checkers being trialed in Germany.

The social media giant has employed the services of Correctiv, a nonprofit group involved in investigative journalism and news auditing, as an independent fact checker.

According to Facebook, new updates to the social site for German users can be expected in the coming weeks. It could see content shared by outlets deemed to be purveyors of false information sent to the back of the Facebook algorithm queue.

The changes include tabs that allow users to report suspected fake news, as well as labels that name-and-shame organisations believed to be peddling fraudulent information.

Facebook insists the system will work through third-party fact auditors associated with Poytner’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles.

“If the fact-finding organisations identify contributions as fraudulent, they are provided with a warning label that identifies them as untrustworthy. The warning contains a link to the corresponding article as well as a justification for this decision,” Facebook says.

“Messages classified as untrustworthy may also appear later in the newsfeed,” they added.

Correctiv announced the partnership via their official Facebook page and the fake news phenomenon as a major threat to politics in Germany.

“Fake news – especially on Facebook – is already one of the major threats [to] our society. That is clear. We fear these threats will become even more massive in the comings months. Whether it be in the NWR election [North Rhine-Westphalia state election] or the election of the Bundestag next autumn,” the company said.

A Facebook statement read: “It is important to us that posts and news posted on Facebook are reliable.”

“We are pleased with this progress, but we know there is still a lot to be done. We continue to work on this challenge and will introduce these innovations in other countries in the near future.”

It comes after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserted he is taking the issue of misinformation seriously, but admitted the social nature of the business meant the company erred on the side of “letting people share what they want whenever possible.”

“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” he said last November.

Last year, German Social Democratic Party politician Thomas Oppermann suggested social media sites like Facebook should face individual fines of up to €500,000 for the spread of fake news.

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