Facebook urged to share data to tackle fake news

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Facebook has been asked to share more data with third-party fact checkers in a bid to tackle ongoing spread of potentially harmful misinformation across social media.

Full Fact, the fact-checking charity which started rating UK posts suspected of containing false information in January, says that the initiative should be fully extended to Instagram, amid concerns about the widespread existence of health misinformation.

The organisation currently reviews Facebook stories, images and videos which have been flagged by users and the company’s algorithms, and rates them based on their accuracy, which appear as a label on posts.

To pick up on more misinformation, it is calling on Facebook to release additional data to better assess the impact of its work, and to develop tools to improve the identification of harmful content.

It also wants the Government to make more trustworthy sources available, especially in public health and the law, to help dispel some of the false claims that go viral online.

In its first six months, Full Fact published details of 96 fact checks it carried out, which included 59 rated as false, 19 as a mixture, seven as opinion, six as satire and five as true.

“Online misinformation is a serious problem that causes real harms to people’s lives, health and wellbeing,” said Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact.

“As this report shows, Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checking programme is a valuable first step in tackling misinformation online, but Facebook needs to take further steps.

“We want to see Facebook sharing more data with us so we can improve and better assess the impact we’re having as fact checkers, and we would like to see this programme expanded to Facebook’s other platforms where the risks posed by inaccurate information are high.”

Full Fact warned that issues of public health go beyond its established in-house expertise, and that it is struggling to find impartial and authoritative expert advice in some areas that it requires to make judgments.

In its first report since joining the Third Party Fact Checking programme, the charity also criticised the rating system for being too limited and called for more specific options.

“Our third-party fact-checking programme is an important part of our multi-pronged approach to fighting misinformation, said Julia Bain, integrity partnerships at Facebook.

“We welcome feedback that draws on the experiences and first-hand knowledge of organisations like Full Fact, which has become a valued partner in the UK.

“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.

“This includes scaling the impact of fact-checks through identical content matching and similarity detection, continuing to evolve our rating scale to account for a growing spectrum of types of misinformation, piloting ways to utilise fact-checkers’ signals on Instagram and more.

“We also agree that there’s a need to explore additional tactics for fighting false news at scale.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with Full Fact and our more than 50 global fact-checking partners.”

Full Fact revealed that it earned $171,800 (£139,723) in fees from Facebook between January and June.

Chris Price
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