Fighting fake news in the post-factual age

Several initiatives are being rolled out to fight the fake.

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Google News this week announced the roll out of its Fact Check tag feature to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico as part of its ongoing efforts to overcome fake news. The service was launched in the US and the UK last year, ahead of the US Presidential election, and was subsequently also expanded to France and Germany (both of which will have national elections during 2017). 

Users of news.google.com in these countries can see Fact Check tagged articles in the expanded story box and also in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps, as well as on the news tab in traditional Google Search. 

In last year's UK Brexit vote and the US Presidential election, there were mounting concern about fabricated news stories and misinformation influencing political outcomes, enabled by social media. Facebook, in particular, was singled out for criticism. Facebook matters, because, according to The Pew Research Center, 44% of Americans get their news from Facebook. 62% of American adults access news on social media, according to Pew (an increase of 13% since 2012). And 64% get news from just one social media site, with Facebook being the most common choice. 

In response to these concerns, in December the social media giant announced a raft of initiatives to fight the fake. Third-party fact-checking organisations – including AP and Factcheck.org – are being called in to scrutinise stories which have been flagged as fake by a sufficient number of users. If a story is identified as fake by the fact checking organisations, it will get flagged as ‘disputed’ and there will be a link to an article explaining why. 

According to Facebook’s announcement, "stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed". Users can still share disputed stories, but before they do so, they will see a warning that "independent fact checkers disputed its accuracy".

Claire Wardle, research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, quoted in The Guardian,  has pointed out that "Facebook stumbled into the news business without systems, editorial frameworks and editorial guidelines, and now it's trying to course-correct."

Google, too, are keen to highlight the importance that they place on fact-checking. Writing in a blog post announcing the rollout of the Fact Check tag, Google’s VP News Richard Gingras pointed out that the company is working on CrossCheck, a joint project involving nearly 20 French newsrooms to debunk myths around the French elections.

Gingras also notes that the Digital News Initiative (DNI) -- a collaboration between Google and news publishers in Europe -- is providing support for more than 10 projects looking at fact checking and authentication, including an automated fact-checker for journalists from UK-based Full Fact, and Factmata, developed at University College London and University of Sheffield, which will use machine learning to build tools to help readers better understand claims made in digital media content, such as news articles and political speech transcripts. 

Other new projects supported by DNI include Compass, a fact checking platform to identify misleading stories and connect news events to reliable information developed by scientists and media analysts at Italian start-up Catchy, and Norway’s Leserkritikk  project which allows readers to give structured feedback on facts, language and mistakes in published content.

Gingras says that the search giant is eager to bring the fact check tag to other countries, and invited publishers who would like to see their content appear with the Fact Check tag should use the open ClaimReview schema from schema.org in their stories to enable the stories to be identified.

Is your organisation helping users navigate in an age of misinformation?  'The post-factual world’ is one of the topics for this year’s ILI conference. The Call for Speakers is now open. www.internet-librarian.com 

Further resources:

International Fact-Checking Network and code of principles:

http://www.poynter.org/fact-checkers-code-of-principles/

Google blog post announcing Fact Checking tag: https://blog.google/topics/journalism-news/expanding-fact-checking-google/

Facebook’s announcement of initiatives to address fake news: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/12/news-feed-fyi-addressing-hoaxes-and-fake-news/

Pew Research Centre Facebook and news: http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/

a useful discussion of what constitutes fake news from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/18/what-is-fake-news-pizzagate