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Facebook isn’t doing enough to tackle misinformation, say fact-checkers

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Full Fact, a charity that has been part of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program for six months, says the company needs to be more transparent and expand the program to its other platforms, like Instagram.

Background: It’s the first public report from a Facebook fact-checker, so it’s a useful insight into how that process is working behind the scenes. You can read it here.

How the process works: Facebook users flag posts they suspect are false. They’re then reviewed by Full Fact, which labels them as true or not. If false, the post won’t disappear but it will be shown to fewer people, by appearing lower down in news feeds. Facebook is paying for the initiative, but it’s run by independent nonprofits and charities.

Read between the lines: Although the document is written using diplomatic language, it’s clear that Full Fact has some major concerns. Specifically, it says it’s worried that Facebook is rapidly increasing the scale of the fact-checking scheme, to cover 42 languages worldwide, before it can adequately speed up the response or increase the volume of content handled. It says Facebook does not share enough data with fact-checkers for them to evaluate the content or impact of posts. It also says the rating system Facebook uses for the program needs to change (but doesn't specify how).

Recommendations: Full Fact makes 11 recommendations. They’re mostly technical feedback for Facebook, including a call for a “more context needed” rating, a rating for satire or pranks, and new tools that can flag repeatedly posted harmful content. It also says Facebook needs to “be explicit about plans for machine learning.” Finally, Full Fact says the government needs to review responsibilities for providing authoritative information.

A little good news: It concludes the program is worthwhile, and similar schemes should be expanded to other online platforms. It also says Facebook seems to be responsive to feedback.

Next steps: Over to Facebook. If it fails to make meaningful changes in response to the report, it seems likely we can rely on Full Fact to let us know.

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