Facebook to flag and fact-check fake news

Facebook is tackling fake news by rolling out a flagging plan that triggers fact-checking by hand-picked fact-checkers. Admittedly going after “the worst of the worst”, they enlist the help of Snopes, ABC News and PolitiFact who have all signed on to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). This sounds like great start. The stories get flagged and move to the fact checkers who can dispute it. The story can still be shared but will come with a warning. This evades the “censorship” label Facebook wouldn’t want hanging over their heads and the third-parties serve as arbiters. This process brings up a few points to expand upon.

What of newz or pseudo-news generation sites that some people find entertaining while others consider them real news? What if it’s celebrity gossip? A rumor? And how will they deal with stories that have a kernel of truth but it is no longer recognizable as reputable news such as Natural News run by Mike Adams, Breitbart content, and almost all of The Sun which all benefit greatly from clicks derived via Facebook and do damage with misinformation? It’s unclear how well this setup will work and if it puts a dent in the worst offenders.

Facebook said in these early experiments it would deal with only fake news content and did not plan to flag opinion posts or other content that cannot be easily classified. Satirical sites like The Onion, which often jabs at political subjects through tongue-in-cheek humor, will not be affected by the changes.

The Poynton’s IFCN is currently a short list but may represent sources of news that could rank higher in credibility than most others. Since Facebook announced they are using sources off this list, there appears to have been a rush to apply to get on it so they are changing their application process. The outlets who make the list must abide by rules of fairness, transparency of sources, funding, and methodology and to printing timely corrections. Each site approved submits a yearly progress report. That sounds good to me! I’m going to start following ABC News and I commend them for stepping up. I hope others do too.

I’m wondering what President Trump will think of the IFCN list or the Facebook flagging process if those in the manufactured news biz who helped kick up his support base are labeled as fake. And, hmm, what will the fact-checkers make of the incoming President’s claims?

  19 comments for “Facebook to flag and fact-check fake news

  1. December 15, 2016 at 5:57 PM

    I agree, the real problem is not the outright fake news but that which is spun out of all recognition. Any health story in the Daily Mail, for a start. It would be good if they flagged all stories from some of the mere egregious bullshit clickbait sites, too. If all clickbait aggregators had a big red box maybe it would tip people off.

  2. Peebs
    December 15, 2016 at 6:05 PM

    So what about The Onion; News Thump, et.al?

    My personal favourite is Southend News Network (I live in Southend) who publish a couple of satirical stories a day which regularly get picked up by mainstream news outlets and reported as fact. Do they get shut down by people who don’t have the common sense to spot a piss take?

  3. bill turnbull
    December 15, 2016 at 6:10 PM

    If I’m following you, the hardest to check are the ones with real facts as a basis, but are subtly skewed, “The slickest way to lie is to tell just enough of the truth … , then SHUT UP!” They tend to be the hardest to argue too.

  4. bill turnbull
    December 15, 2016 at 6:14 PM

    The Onion explicitly expects folks to understand that they’re taking the piss. They go out of their way to be outrageous. Are we going to ban irony and sarcasm? Do you think that the right course is to label it something like “They’re just trying to be funny, folks, get over it”?

  5. Peebs
    December 15, 2016 at 6:40 PM
  6. JL
    December 16, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    Neutrality might be an issue. Also people who are against fake news might ask, is this process fair and neutral for everyone. There is also literally possibility of false flag operations if someones within those organizations decides to use this system for trolling. One central question might be how false flags can be corrected, whether they are accidental or intentional.

  7. December 16, 2016 at 8:49 AM

    What do you mean by ‘false flag’? People who tag real stories as fake? (I’m sorry that word just makes me gag because of it’s typical misuse by people like Alex Jones.)

    There is no reason why Fox News or other conservative leaning outlets can sign on to the IFCN. But I don’t think they can start abiding by the rules now.

  8. skeptictmac57
    December 16, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    Another thought, I get a ton of political BS memes (both left and right) on my FB page shared by friends. It has become a favorite way for people to share their opinions because they are quick and dirty.
    I think those sharing them believe that these are every bit as valid as any other information outlet, and the way they are constructed is designed for maximum gut impact (usually outrage), rather than factual content.
    So now I’m wondering if these will be included in this new process? Snopes is a good source for debunking these memes, but there has become a distrust on the right of Snopes (without evidence of course) that they are a bunch of liberal propagandists trying to keep the ‘truth’ down. Same with Politifact.

  9. December 16, 2016 at 10:46 AM

    That distrust of sources will be baseless whining if their fave sources don’t step up and commit to the IFCN themselves.

  10. Steve
    December 16, 2016 at 12:02 PM

    I’m finding on my Facebook Feed, that the people with the biggest problem with it, are the ones who share fake news the most.

  11. Steve
    December 16, 2016 at 12:29 PM

    Satire isn’t fake news, it’s satire.

  12. December 16, 2016 at 1:21 PM

    Since fake news feeds prejudices, not reality, this is a predictable result.

  13. skeptictmac57
    December 16, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    I’m trying to come up with a good metaphor that represents what is happening with this surge of ‘alternative information’ that is plaguing us now, but I can’t put my finger on one yet. But maybe something like this:
    If maps and GPS were suddenly to become objects of mistrust for political reasons, and people decided to instead ask random strangers (possibly schizophrenic homeless ones) for directions without writing them down, but just internalized them and then used their gut feelings and dead reckoning off that limited and possibly spurious information. Now they drive on with utter confidence that they know for sure where they are headed (oh, and by the way, pass their new found certainty on to others saying “I know the way, follow me”) , and it certainly won’t be off a cliff…because feelings.
    That’s kinda of wordy so I would hope someone could do much better.

  14. Peebs
    December 16, 2016 at 6:45 PM

    How about; “Trust me. I’m a Man of the Cloth”?

  15. Chris
    December 16, 2016 at 10:44 PM

    What is worse is that some people will fall for idiocy without doing some basic reading on the website. A case in point: http://thesciencepost.com/ .

    Under the main title, “The Science Post”, at the top of the page it says “Science, Health, Satire.” At the bottom of the page is this paragraph: “The Science Post has been your untrusted source of science and health news for over 0 years. We aim to bring you the latest in made-up, hard hitting news that you can use to mock others. All stories on the site are fake and should not be taken all that seriously….seriously.”

    Almost everyday someone comments with variations of:

    “This is a bad article, you didn’t tell us what Dunning-Kruger is, how it spreads or how to avoid it!”

    “Is this real?”

    “Please tell me this is satire.”

    etc, etc, etc… it is quite amusing. And when you direct them to the parts on the page that says it is satire you very often get someone saying “Ooops, sorry” or they delete all their comments, and once in a great while someone who is just terribly angry.

  16. Lagaya1
    December 18, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    It’s not just fake news, it’s ignorant news.

    Last night on our local NBC affiliate, they had a story about John Glenn and his wife. The local reporter said that they “literally loved each other to the moon and back”. To the moon? John Glenn? Where is the fact checker, anyway?

    The erosion of language is also a problem. When “literally” no longer means literally, and “ironic” has become synonymous with coincidental, it’s no wonder understanding suffers.

  17. dubious f
    December 18, 2016 at 2:03 PM

    Still, he’s better known for 4:55 hrs in space than 25 years as a senator (p.s. I did not fact check Wikipedia ..)

  18. Dang
    December 21, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    For many, it will be enough if their favorite faux news providers *claim* to go through the IFCN process. Or something like, “We applied, but those leftists rejected us because we would not bow down to their dogma.”

  19. skeptictmac57
    December 21, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    I suspect you are right. They can claim anything they want now in this post truth world, and apparently their audience will but it. Just a couple days ago in an interview, I heard an apologist for fake news basically saying that the era of the ‘gatekeepers’ (fact checkers) is now dead.
    None of this is likely to change until the public who are rejecting, in a knee jerk manner, information that they don’t like, come to their senses and realize that our world cannot function in a rational way unless we diligently pursue the truth.

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