Facebook will gray out what it thinks is “false information” through the UK general election


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The UK is gearing up for an election, and Facebook's first order of business seems to be to scramble to prove that it is doing enough to “fight false information.”

As ever, the question of who, and how decides what information is true or false – particularly on a giant platform with an unprecedented amount of content like Facebook – remains what you might call a gray area.

However, Facebook's first concern is not to clarify this question – instead, the social media platform with nearly 2.5 billion users has decided to start graying out photos and videos that it deems to be “fake.”

Facebook employing a gray screen that will block out some photos or videos is the platform's latest move in a war on fake news ahead of UK's December 12 ballot.

But we also get a glimpse into how the giant is making its decisions on what content to “gray out” and what to display: it's relying on third-party fact-checking.

Facebook also now has a product manager for “misinformation”, Antonia Woodford, who explained that users will see “more prominent labels” slapped on photos and videos that fact-checkers determine to be “false or partly false.”

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Furthermore, instead of viewing these photos and videos, Facebook users will be encouraged to follow links leading to articles put together by said fact-checkers, explaining their censorship decisions, or, as the article put it, “debunking” the contentious content.

But what set of rules and standards guides the fact-checkers, and who are they? Facebook seems eager to wash its hands off the whole enterprise – saying that “it doesn't decide what's false or not.” Instead, the giant merely works with UK outfits called Full Fact and FactCheckNI.

And they, in turn, are associated with the International Fact-Checking Network – a unit of the US-based Poynter Institute, that also compiles blacklists of largely conservative “fake news” websites, and urges advertisers to boycott them.

Facebook is relying on its users in the UK to flag content for review, which is then forwarded to third-party partners.

These fact-checkers are independent organizations, so it is at their discretion who and what they choose to investigate.

As ever, the social media giant would like to tread lightly and attempt to please all – so for the moment, text posts and news articles are left out of the new “gray screen” policy.

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]