Leading fact-checker Snopes ends partnership with Facebook

4 Feb 2019

Facebook on browser. Image: Medienfilter.de/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Fact-checking agency Snopes is no longer providing its services to Facebook.

2016 was a turning point for social media, particularly Facebook, as platforms began to reckon with the growing issue of online disinformation and digital interference.

As part of an effort by Facebook to fight disinformation, fact-checking organisation Snopes voluntarily joined the firm’s third-party fact-checking programme in 2016, accepting a lump sum payment of $100,000 the following year.

Snopes is re-evaluating its processes

On Friday (1 February), Snopes published a statement saying it had withdrawn from its partnership with the social media platform. The statement, signed by Snopes CEO David Mikkelson and vice-president of operations, Vinny Green, said that it was evaluating “the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services”.

Snopes added that it needed to determine “that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication and staff”. The organisation did not explicitly rule out working with Facebook in the future.

An arduous system

In a comment provided to TechCrunch, Mikkelson said: “We felt that the Facebook fact-check partnership wasn’t working well for us as an organisation.”

Speaking to Poynter, Green said that the fact-checking process needed to be overhauled. “With a manual system and a closed system, it’s impossible to keep on top of that stuff … It doesn’t seem like we’re striving to make third-party fact-checking more practical for publishers – it seems like we’re striving to make it easier for Facebook.

“At some point, we need to put our foot down and say, ‘No. You need to build an API.’”

He added that he believed time may be better spent creating fact-checking tools that benefit the entire internet ecosystem, rather than just a single platform. “The work that fact-checkers are doing doesn’t need to be just for Facebook; we can build things for fact-checkers that benefit the whole web, and that can also help Facebook.”

The Associated Press (AP), an organisation that had also been part of Facebook’s fact-checking programme, told the BBC that while it is no longer checking articles, it was in “ongoing conversations” about work in future.

Facebook continues to battle with disinformation

“Fighting misinformation takes a multi-pronged approach from across the industry,” a Facebook spokesperson told the BBC.

“We are committed to fighting this through many tactics, and the work that third-party fact-checkers do is a valued and important piece of this effort.

“We have strong relationships with 34 fact-checking partners around the world who fact-check content in 16 languages, and we plan to expand the programme this year by adding new partners and languages.”

Facebook on browser. Image: Medienfilter.de/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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