Facebook has announced it will start fact-checking news stories in India, starting with stories on the upcoming Karnataka election with an aim to fight the plague of fake news on the social media platform. Facebook has joined hands with BOOM, an independent digital journalism initiative to flag fake news stories and reduce them from getting distributed. It is a pilot project right now, and could give way for a broader scale of fact-checking before the upcoming general elections in 2019.
Mumbai-based Boom is certified by the International Fact-Checking Network will review English language news articles that are flagged by users to check facts and rate whether its accurate or not.
The founder of Boom, Govindraj Ethiraj told BuzzFeed News that they will hire two additional people to fact-check news stories in Karnataka. He said Facebook has given them a small amount of money, “but not enough to build fact-checking empires.”
Once Facebook has learned the story is false, the platform will reduce its distribution by 80 percent, which the company claims will improve the accuracy of information on the platform. Essentially, when a fact-checker rates a story as false, Facebook will demote the story to show it lower in the News Feed. Facebook thinks by reducing the number of people who see a false story will reduce the spread of misinformation.
“We are beginning small and know it is important to learn from this test and listen to our community as we continue to update ways for people to understand what might be false news in their News Feed,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.
Furthermore, if a page or a domain repeatedly publish and share fake news, Facebook will reduce their distribution as well as their ability to monetise through advertisements. This, Facebook thinks will control the spread of financially motivated false news.
Facebook earlier announced it will take steps to curb misinformation on its platform after the company came under fire for being a hub of fake news during the 2017 US elections. The social network announced it will take a three-pronged approach to control fake news — Remove, reduce and inform. The company has already partnered with third-party fact-checkers in the US, Italy, France, Netherlands, Indonesia and Phillippines.
Facebook will remove content that violates its policies (hate speech, violence, pornography, false news, etc), reduce the spread of misinformation by deranking false stories and finally, inform the community with additional context.
While the remove and reduce parts of the program are being handled by Boom, Facebook will also allow people to decide for themselves what to read, trust and share. For instance, if a false news story is debunked by third-party fact-checkers, Facebook will show it in the ‘Related Articles’ right below the story in the Feed. Additionally, Facebook will also notify pages and page admins if they have shared a fake news story or had shared it in the past.
The decision to fact-check news articles on Facebook is a welcome move. India is the company’s largest market right now with more than 240 million users. Fake news have become increasingly become prominent on people’s News Feeds as well as on WhatsApp. Both platform has been notorious in spreading false information, the implications of which has been seen in the form of countless mob activities like lynching, mass outrage and more.