How Facebook's new effort to fact-check will work

How Facebook's new effort to fact-check will work
Posted at 1:13 PM, Dec 16, 2016

Facebook on Thursday said it was trying a series of tests to address the spread of fake news across its site. This phenomenon gained attention after the 2016 election and concerns that fake information influenced voters. Facebook will be working with several news outlets including Snopes, the Associated Press and PolitiFact to fact-check posts that readers flag as fake news on the social network.

DecodeDC spoke to Angie Drobnic Holan, PolitiFact Editor, to get more details about the partnership.

Q. How did this project come about?

A. Part of it came out of a letter we participated in. The international fact-checking network wrote a letter to Facebook about the need to fact check fake news and offered to help in any way that we could.  In the letter, we noted that fake news is a problem world wide and not just in politics.  Facebook reached out to some of us and told us they had some ideas, and it resulted in the project that was just announced.

Q. How will it actually work, what will it look like on a daily basis for Politifact?

A. What’s interesting is it starts with the users. Facebook users will be able to flag content that they think is fake. PolitiFact has access to that list of fake posts, and we will select the ones that we are most interested in fact checking and then it just goes into our normal process.

We have complete control over what we want to fact check. After we finish the work, we have a tool to alert Facebook. So if a user clicks on a post, it will say this post has been disputed by third-party fact checkers. So its not censoring anything; its just warning people, “Hey, this post has been disputed by fact-checkers.”

Q. How many stories can you do in a day?

A. At this point, we see the flagged posts. It’s not an infinite number. It’s a list that takes up about a screen. So I’m not sure how much we will be doing. We’ll see how it goes.

Q. Do you expect this will make a difference?

A. I do expect it to make a difference, just on the grounds that I don’t see how it can’t, because it really is bringing attention to fraudulent posts in a more direct way. I think the question will be does it work as well as we want it to and does it work as well as Facebook wants it to.

Q. Is this good for PolitiFact? Are you concerned that you are going to become a target for attacks?

A. To me this just seems like a new way of doing things that we’ve been doing for years that have been very well received by our readers. I actually see Facebook as being a site that is more responsible because everyone has real identities, for the most part. So there’s a lot more civility in the discussion. I don’t have any worries right now about being attacks – but now you are making me worried, thanks!

PolitiFact chose “Fake News” at it’s Lie of the Year for 2016. Holan explained the choice – and that it’s like to be a fact checker in a year where even facts are in dispute – in the latest episode of the DecodeDC podcast. Listen below.