Christine Gerber considers what this announcement could mean for the media industry.
Facebook received a lot of criticism after its 2016 announcement that it is working to stop the spread of fake news on its platform. Critics are mainly concerned with the company’s lack of data to prove that its efforts have been effective.
However, Tessa Lyons, a product manager at Facebook, reportedly said
that Facebook has invited representative partners from fact-checking groups to its headquarters in the United States to discuss what information it might share.
Jason Schwartz, a media reporter at POLITICO
, comments on the development: “While Facebook is unlikely to fully throw open the vault, the meeting could help thaw what has been, at times, a tense relationship with the fact-checking groups (FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes, The Weekly Standard, and The Associated Press in the United States) it began enlisting shortly after the 2016 election to sweep the platform for misinformation.”
The effects of Facebook’s hold on data sharing
Without Facebook’s data, it is impossible for organisations to gauge whether or not its programme is effective.
The distribution of misinformation, or fake news, can affect the credibility of media companies and businesses. It also prevents journalists from acquiring authentic and credible news sources and contributes to the spread of misinformation, which can hurt business reputation.
According to Schwartz, Facebook’s enlisted fact-checkers hope that this meeting will allow them the opportunity to discuss technical fixes but, above all, transparency and data-sharing.
Changes to Facebook’s fact-checking programme
News of Facebook’s forthcoming meeting, to take place in February, follows its announcement of changes it has made to its fact-checking programme
. This includes the discontinued use of red flags, which were used to mark fake news stories. Instead, articles that have been analysed by a fact-checker are now posted as ‘Related Articles’ next to the original fake story.
“Now that the fact-check story’s headline will appear right beside the false story, users will immediately be exposed to the correct information,” explains Grace Jackson
, a Facebook user-experience researcher.
Facebook sees this as a positive development, but the company still needs more information to accurately measure its effectiveness.
Lyons also reportedly said that “there are several reasons, including privacy, that more information has not yet been shared. For instance, sometimes there have been requests for data that have been overly expansive, like to see every post that has been used to share a hoax article”.
The meeting will likely spur on the discussion about ‘Related Articles’ versus the disputed red flags. However, Facebook’s ability to curb the spread of fake news is still debatable until the company releases its data.
Circular reporting is one of the most common ways journalists unknowingly spread misinformation, but there are ways to stop it. Read more in our article, How to avoid circular reporting and spreading fake news