Facebook Fake News Fact-checkers Call it Quits

John Lister's picture

Two organizations hired by Facebook to check facts in news articles have pulled out of the deals. The Associated Press (AP) and Snopes are both being somewhat vague about exactly why they are stopping the work.

While financial considerations may be the cause, third-party reports suggest the organizations were upset with the way Facebook handled their fact-checking operations.

The two groups were among the most high-profile of what Facebook says is 34 organizations checking facts across 16 languages. According to the BBC, the AP and Snopes withdrawal means only two organizations in the US are still working on the project, namely Politifact and Factcheck.

False Stories Get Downgraded

The organizations were hired to make it easier for Facebook to identify incorrect or misleading news articles - especially those which were deliberately false - and downplay them in its algorithms. That means that if a user shares a fake news article, their friends will be less likely to see the story in their own news feed. Facebook says on average this means a story identified as "false" will be seen by 80 percent fewer users.

Snopes says it originally worked with Facebook without charge but was paid $100,000 in 2017 for its work. It's also said that: "At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff." (Source: snopes.com)

Facebook Accused Of Pressuring Factcheckers

A report by the Guardian newspaper last year suggests it might not just be a financial issue.

It quoted a former managing editor at Snopes as saying "They've essentially used us for crisis PR (public relations). They're not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck ... " (Source: theguardian.com)

She also said that Facebook allegedly told fact-checkers to prioritize any negative stories about advertisers. It doesn't seem Facebook was trying to influence the outcome of the checks, however, the selection of which stories to check (and potentially label false) was biased to its financial interests rather than the interests of readers/society. Facebook denies this claim.

What's Your Opinion?

Are the organizations right to stop working with Facebook? Should Facebook be fact-checking news stories in the first place? Does Facebook's business model incentivise attention-grabbing but inaccurate 'news' stories?

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ThePunisher007's picture

I'm sure once they realized 95 percent of the news stories they fact checked were "Fake News" and thereby didn't fit their agenda they realized they couldn't do truthful fact checking because it would eliminate nearly all the news being reported.

ehowland's picture

I have a bridge for sale in NYC... and or land in FL... LOL

Millennials are so uninformed...