Facebook fact-checkers urgently needed for Instagram, charity warns

31 Jul 2019

Image: Nick Ansell/PA Media

An organisation tasked with fighting misinformation on Facebook has said oversight needs to be ramped up on the company’s sister platform, Instagram.

Facebook has been asked to share more data with third-party fact-checkers in a bid to tackle the ongoing spread of potentially harmful misinformation across social media.

Full Fact, the fact-checking charity that started rating UK posts suspected of containing false information in January, says that the initiative should be fully extended to Instagram, amid concerns about the widespread existence of health misinformation.

The organisation currently reviews Facebook stories, images and videos that have been flagged by users, as well as the company’s algorithms, and rates them based on their accuracy, which appears as a label on posts. To pick up on more misinformation, it is calling on Facebook to release additional data to better assess the impact of its work and to develop tools to improve the identification of harmful content.

It also wants the UK government to make more trustworthy sources available, especially in public health and the law, to help dispel some of the false claims that go viral online. In its first six months, Full Fact published details of 96 fact checks it carried out, which included 59 rated as false, 19 as a mixture, seven as opinion, six as satire and five as true.

Problems with the rating system

“Online misinformation is a serious problem that causes real harms to people’s lives, health and wellbeing,” said Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact.

“As this report shows, Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme is a valuable first step in tackling misinformation online, but Facebook needs to take further steps. We want to see Facebook sharing more data with us so we can improve and better assess the impact we’re having as fact-checkers, and we would like to see this programme expanded to Facebook’s other platforms where the risks posed by inaccurate information are high.”

Full Fact warned that issues of public health go beyond its established in-house expertise, and that it is struggling to find impartial and authoritative expert advice in some areas that it requires to make judgements. In its first report since joining the third-party fact-checking programme, the charity also criticised the rating system for being too limited and called for more specific options.

‘There’s always room to improve’

“Our third-party fact-checking programme is an important part of our multipronged approach to fighting misinformation,” said Julia Bain of integrity partnerships at Facebook.

“We welcome feedback that draws on the experiences and first-hand knowledge of organisations like Full Fact, which has become a valued partner in the UK.

“We are encouraged that many of the recommendations in the report are being actively pursued by our teams as part of continued dialogue with our partners, and we know there’s always room to improve.

“This includes scaling the impact of fact checks through identical content matching and similarity detection, continuing to evolve our rating scale to account for a growing spectrum of types of misinformation, piloting ways to utilise fact-checkers’ signals on Instagram and more. We also agree that there’s a need to explore additional tactics for fighting false news at scale. We look forward to continued collaboration with Full Fact and our more than 50 global fact-checking partners.”

Full Fact revealed that it earned $171,800 in fees from Facebook between January and June.

– PA Media