The UK fact-checking charity Full Fact has released a report describing its work and findings from the first six months of its collaboration with Facebook. They say that Facebook has a problem in controlling the surges of fake news, and since the end of 2016 – after the criticism about its failure to mitigate the spread of “fake news” in the presidential election campaign – the company has been using the services of a number of fact-checking firms in an attempt to review and control false information. Full Fact is one of these firms.
Full Fact published 96 fact checks conducted during its first six months with Facebook. Out of these, 59 were found to be fake news, 19 were a mix of facts and falsehoods, seven were to be considered opinions, and six were judged as satire. Only five of the 96 posts, that had been flagged by users concerned by their authenticity, were judged true.
So-called fake news is often mostly about current affairs, from dubious political information to claims about mainstream medicine. The Times reports that much of the false information could result in health risks, and cited a post that claims heart attack victims should cough “repeatedly and very vigorously” until rescue arrives – advice that was debunked by the British Heart Foundation.
The main issue appears to be Facebook’s algorithms. According to Will Moy, director of Full Fact, algorithms are “not yet at a stage where they can reliably identify information that is inaccurate.”
Once the information flagged by the algorithms is confirmed as false by fact-checkers, its reach is reduced by more than 80 percent, but it remains on the site. Moy said that Facebook has been reluctant to give his company more details on the impact that fact-checking is having on fake news. The complaint is upheld by other fact-checking organizations such as the controversial Snopes, which decided to leave the program due to concerns over lack of transparency.
The report also mentions that Facebook is extending the program to other countries and languages but suggests it needs to increase the volume of content checked and the speed of the response.
Full Fact underlines that the fact-checking initiative is “worthwhile” and it is likely that other platforms will need something similar, ultimately adding that it wants Facebook to “share more data with fact-checkers so that we can better evaluate content we are checking and evaluate our impact.”