In recent months, the South African public has called out the country’s media for an array of fake news stories. Facebook has taken notice of this ongoing issue and introduced a third-party program that conducts fact-checking tests to determine which news is fake, and which is factual.
This program works in conjuction with Africa Check, which is the continent’s first independent fact-checking agency, and news organisation AFP. Both of these organisations are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network.
The fact-checking program will make use of feedback gathered from Facebook users. Once the social network’s fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, it will lower the reach of the story by as much as 80% – effectively throttling the fake news.
This also means that although a story has been identified as fake news, Facebook will not remove it from its site. When the story does appear on news feeds, it will be displayed with additional information from the fact checkers, and will also be flagged as fake when users share it.
“If a Facebook Page or website repeatedly shares misinformation, we’ll reduce the overall distribution of the Page or website, not just individual false articles. We’ll also cut off their ability to make money or advertise on our services,” Facebook said. “Over the last 18 months we’ve made good progress, but we’re also aware of the limits of this program. Fact-checkers don’t exist in all countries, and different places have different standards of journalism as well as varying levels of press freedom.”
There is also a process for publishers to dispute the illegitimacy of their “fake news” article, and an option that will allow the publisher to issue a correction.
When a correction is issued, the throttle will be removed, allowing the publisher access to their full audience once again.
In the initial stages of the fact-checking process, Africa Check will be focussing primarily on fake news surrounding bogus health cures, financial scams, and false rumours of crime.