Facebook users in Singapore will now be among some 2.38 billion users worldwide to benefit from a fact-checking programme as the tech giant expands the initiative to the Republic on Thu (2 May).
The fact-checking programme, which is a collaboration between Facebook and media experts, was first launched in the United States and the United Kingdom three years ago, and was rolled out globally last month.
Singapore will now be among five Asia-Pacific countries – other than the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Australia – in which Facebook will team up with renowned international news organisation Agence France-Presse (AFP) to “reduce the spread of misinformation and improve the quality of the news people find online”.
TODAY reported that AFP will be reviewing and rating the accuracy of stories, photos and videos on Facebook that are being consumed in Singapore. It will monitor stories that are produced in English, Mandarin and Malay.
Nine options are used in the evaluation process by Facebook, which include:
- “false” (where the primary claims made are factually inaccurate);
- “mixture” (where the primary claim is misleading or incomplete); and
- “false headline”, “opinion”, “true” and “not eligible” (a claim that is not verifiable, or a website or page that is primarily expressing an opinion or the agenda of a political figure).
The process entails:
- The identification of potentially false news by Facebook, based on user feedback and through its own algorithm, and subsequent relaying of the news source to AFP. The fact-checker will also proactively identify false news content;
- The review of the accuracy of the news source(s) and the subsequent rating of said sources by AFP; and
- Reduced circulation or distribution of content marked as “false”, “mixture” or “false headline”, which will manifest itself through lower appearance in the News Feed, and alongside related articles from fact-checkers.
AFP’s Asia fact-check editor Catherine Barton told TODAY that the agency will station one dedicated fact-checking reporter at its Singapore bureau, and a regional editorial fact-checking team in Hong Kong. The bureau reporters will be assisted by AFP’s global fact-checking network.
Ms Barton said: “We select content to investigate based on criteria including editorial interest, how widely something has been shared and whether it has entered public debate. We employ both digital verification techniques and traditional reporting methods in our evaluation and publish our findings on content we deem to be deliberately misleading”.
Facebook’s collaboration with a range of experts from multiple fields will also involve a collective effort by its users to confirm or dismiss the authenticity of any claims made in a post potentially containing false material, given that professionals face “challenges of scale”.
“There simply aren’t enough professional fact-checkers worldwide and, like all good journalism, fact-checking takes time.
“One promising idea to bolster their work, which we’ve been exploring since 2017, involves groups of Facebook users pointing to journalistic sources to corroborate or contradict claims made in potentially false content,” said Facebook in a statement on 10 Apr.
“Over the next few months, we’re going to build on those explorations, continuing to consult a wide range of academics, fact-checking experts, journalists, survey researchers and civil society organizations to understand the benefits and risks of ideas like this.
“We need to find solutions that support original reporting, promote trusted information, complement our existing fact-checking programs and allow for people to express themselves freely — without having Facebook be the judge of what is true.
“Any system we implement must have safeguards from gaming or manipulation, avoid introducing personal biases and protect minority voices. We’ll share updates with the public throughout this exploratory process and solicit feedback from broader groups of people around the world,” said Facebook.
Currently, other initiatives taken by Facebook to combat the spread of online falsehoods include reducing the reach of Facebook Groups that repeatedly share misinformation and incorporating a “Click-Gap” signal into News Feed ranking to ensure people see less low-quality content in their News Feed.