Frequently asked questions: Facebook

11 January 2019 | Team Full Fact

What is Facebook’s third-party factchecking initiative?

Since December 2016, Facebook has been working with factchecking organisations all over the world to help identify false content and try to reduce its reach.

They now work with factcheckers in more than 20 countries, all signatories to the International Fact-Checking Network code of principles.

From January 2019, Full Fact will begin reviewing images, videos and articles on Facebook, as the third-party factchecking initiative comes to the UK for the first time.

Why is Full Fact joining the third-party factchecking initiative?

We want to tackle misinformation at its source and give people the tools to recognise it themselves.

Many of us increasingly get our news on social media, and harmful false stories shared on Facebook can spread to huge numbers of people, fast.

This is a chance for Facebook users to direct us towards images, videos or articles they’re worried could be false — meaning we can see what’s appearing in people’s news feeds and prioritise checking content that could damage people’s health or safety, or undermine democratic processes.

It will also let us give users information to help them recognise and scrutinise false content themselves — without stopping them sharing anything they want to.

Full Fact has been engaged in conversations about how to tackle online misinformation for many years, including with Facebook. Facebook has recognised the importance of factcheckers — that someone has to do research and help the public make a choice about who and what to believe.

That work needs to be done to high standards of accuracy and fairness. While there’s no magic pill to cure misinformation, we believe this is a step in the right direction.

This will sit alongside our day-to-day work factchecking claims by public figures, organisations, politicians and the media.

How does the process work?

Facebook users will be able to flag content they worry may be false.

Full Fact’s factcheckers will identify potentially false content, review it and rate it as true, false or a mixture of accurate and inaccurate. The full rating system is here.

Users will be told if a post they’ve shared, or are about to share, has been checked and given the option to read more about a claim’s sources — but won’t be stopped from sharing any content.

False content will appear lower in news feeds, so it will reach fewer people.

How will Full Fact’s factcheckers choose what to check?

We’ll focus on misinformation that could cause people harm or undermine democratic processes — like dangerous cancer ‘cures’, false stories spreading after terror attacks or fake content on how to vote ahead of elections.

We’ll only review images, videos and stories being presented as fact-based reporting. Other content, like satire or opinion, will be exempt.

Will content I flag definitely be factchecked?

Sadly we can’t guarantee it. Factchecking is slow, careful work and can take hours or days — so we know we won’t be able to factcheck all potentially false content.

As detailed above, we’re going to prioritise misinformation which has the most potential to cause damage.

Will Facebook have any control over what Full Fact checks?

As with all the funders and organisations we work with, Facebook won’t have any influence on our editorial policy. We’ve taken a number of measures to ensure we can maintain our high standards of scrutiny, transparency, impartiality and judgment.  

Facebook won’t have any control over what we check or write, or what rating we give. Once we’ve carried out a factcheck, it will upload automatically to the platform. No member of Facebook staff will see it before it goes live.

We’ll publish all factchecks under this project in full on our website and we’ll evaluate the project continually. We’ll also produce reports every three months to evaluate our work, give an insight into misinformation on social media and assess how effectively the project is tackling it.

Will Full Fact have access to Facebook users’ data?

No. Full Fact won’t be given access to Facebook users’ private data for any reason.

How many factchecks will Full Fact be doing?

This will depend on the volume and type of content flagged, and the number of factchecks we complete may change over time.

Checking Facebook content will sit alongside our day-to-day work factchecking politicians, public figures and the media, pushing for corrections and withdrawals and working to prevent inaccurate claims being made in the first place.

We’ll continue this work with the same high level of scrutiny and editorial judgement as before.

Who else does factchecking for Facebook?

Facebook works with factcheckers in more than 20 countries, all of which — like Full Fact — are signatories to the International Fact-Checking Network code of principles. You can find details here.

What difference could this possibly make, given the scale of the problem?

As we highlighted in our report Tackling misinformation in an open society, online misinformation is a complex problem.

We believe it’s crucial governments and internet and media companies in open, democratic societies don’t overreact in their response and take action that puts free expression at risk.

Factchecking can take hours, days or weeks. So realistically we can’t check everything that’s flagged up on Facebook. But we believe this is a step in the right direction.

We believe in giving people the information and tools to recognise and scrutinise false or misleading stories themselves, and hopefully limit their spread. This work will let us do that — and it will also let Facebook users steer us to the potentially false content that’s appearing on their feeds.

How will Full Fact assess whether this work is having any effect?

We’ll be evaluating our work on this continually. We’re also going to publish reports every three months to give an insight into misinformation on social media and assess how effectively this initiative is tackling it.

Does Full Fact believe Facebook should publish data on its efforts to tackle misinformation?

We believe social media platforms can do more to be open and transparent in general, and that Facebook can be more open about the effectiveness of its third-party factchecking programme — and we will continue to say so.

Is Facebook paying Full Fact for this work?

Facebook is funding this aspect of our work. As with all our funding, we’ll be publishing full details here.

Organisations we work with — including Facebook — never contribute to our editorial policy or influence who and what we factcheck. We have rigorous safeguards in place at every level to ensure our neutrality and independence, including fundraising safeguards.

How else does Full Fact work with Facebook?

We’ve previously received £75,000 of funding from Facebook to help us factcheck the 2017 election, and we’ve worked with them on a number of educational and factchecking projects. You may have seen the top 10 tips to spot false news that we published in 2017.

As with all our funders, Facebook does not contribute to our editorial policy or influence who or what we factcheck. You can read more about how we’re funded here.

I thought you were against rating systems. How is Facebook’s rating system different?

We haven’t found a sustainable or workable way to rate political claims based on their accuracy because of the complex nature of this kind of debate. Our view on this hasn’t changed.

However, it is possible to distinguish between the political content we check regularly and the content which we will be checking on Facebook.

If we don’t think it’s possible to give a piece of content a fair rating under this system, we won’t.

You can read more about Facebook’s rating system here.

Will you be able to factcheck things that Facebook itself says?

We’ll be able to factcheck any potentially false images, videos or articles which are being presented as fact-based reporting — regardless of who created or wrote them, or who’s quoted in them.

Facebook will have no control over what we factcheck. Once we’ve carried out a factcheck, it will automatically upload to the platform and no Facebook staff members will see it before it goes live.

If you have any other questions, please get in touch via our contact form.

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Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.