Facebook and TheJournal.ie team up on fact-checking project

27 Apr 2018

Facebook building in Dublin. Image: faithie/Shutterstock

TheJournal.ie is helping Facebook with fact-checking false news ahead of May’s referendum.

A contentious referendum is less than a month away in Ireland and, coupled with a general public wariness about social media’s role in democratic processes, the truth of news online is on the minds of many.

While social media has often been something of a regulatory wild west, this is now beginning to change.

On that note, Facebook has teamed up with TheJournal.ie in an effort to mitigate the spread of false information on its platform.

Combined efforts to battle misinformation

TheJournal.ie is a certified partner through the non-partisan Fact-Checking Network and will review news stories for accuracy.

There will also be an alpha test component, which will allow checkers to begin evaluating certain photo and video content.

How will it work?

When a fact-checker deems a story to be false, it will be shown lower on the Facebook news feed. This ostensibly reduces the distribution of the story as well as the size of its potential audience.

Pages and domains that repeatedly disseminate false stories will also see their distribution reduced as well as the removal of their monetisation and advertising capabilities.

Page admins and individual users will be notified if they try to share a story or have tried to share a story in the past that was found to be false.

Facebook aware of user worries

“We are aware that the spread of false news is a concern for many people, particularly in the context of the forthcoming referendum. People want accurate information on Facebook and that is what we want, too,” said Niamh Sweeney, head of public policy for Facebook Ireland.

She added that the partnership aimed to help reduce the spread of misinformation by showing a warning when people begin to share an article flagged by a fact-checker. She said that Facebook found that once a story is rated as false, future views have been reduced by 80pc.

Editor of TheJournal.ie, Susan Daly, said that over the past two years, its FactCheck programme has examined claims and statements “across a diverse range of areas, from housing to health, employment to education, transport to pollution”.

She added: “We welcome this chance to apply our team’s expertise and knowledge to tackling the spread of disinformation on a wider platform.”

Increased transparency

The View Ads feature has been live in Ireland since 25 April and it will enable Irish users to see all ads an advertiser is running on the site at the same time.

Facebook is also deploying an Election Integrity AI service, which will see teams identify foreign interference and fake accounts in relation to the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment in May.

The company also launched an educational notice about fake news in Ireland to help users identify false stories, including tips on how to spot them, as well as a series of educational adverts across the Irish press.

Facebook building in Dublin. Image: faithie/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects