Facebook announces further measures to tackle “false news”

In what seems like a saga that will never end, Facebook has announced several updates to its platform which seek to address the issue of “false news”, as it is now being called. The roster of updates centre around the expansion of fact-checking, tackling repeat offenders, and improving measurement and transparency by partnering with academics.

With regards to fact-checking, Facebook announced several updates. Firstly, the service will be rolled out in several more countries to give users independent ratings for stories on Facebook - the firm said so far it has helped reduce the distribution of false news by an average of 80% so far.

The second announcement to fact-checking is that it now applies to photos and videos that are posted online. The video and photo fact checking has launched in four countries and will inform users if it has been edited to show something that didn’t happen, or has been taken out of context.

Lastly, the fact-checking feature will use new mechanisms to detect material. One mechanism is to deploy machine learning to identify duplicates of debunked stories that might appear on different websites. Facebook is also working with Schema.org’s Claim Review which is a framework that multiple tech companies and fact-checking organisations can use to flag and find flagged claims. Facebook says Claim Review will help it take down false news more quickly, especially in times of crisis.

In order to tackle repeat offenders, Facebook said:

“Historically, we have used ratings from fact-checkers to identify Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news. We then take action by reducing their distribution and removing their ability to monetize. To help curb foreign interference in public discourse, we are beginning to use machine learning to help identify and demote foreign Pages that are likely to spread financially-motivated hoaxes to people in other countries.”

Finally, Facebook gave us an update on a project it announced in April. It said that the commission of scholars who will measure Facebook’s effect on democracies are currently hiring staff and establishing legal and organisational procedures necessary to become independent. It will launch its website in the coming weeks and accept proposals for the study.

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