Facebook Hires "Third-Party" Fact-Checkers To Stamp Out "Fake News"

As Facebook scrambles to avoid a potentially devastating fine from the Federal Trade Commission, the company announced more measures on Thursday seemingly designed to appease Democratic lawmakers like Senator Mark Warner who are insisting that strenuous regulations are the only way to ensure that Facebook does everything within its power to prevent state actors from "sowing discord" by planting disingenuous advertisements and posts on the company's platform.

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According to the Verge, Facebook is now partnering with "third-party fact checkers" to investigate photos and videos published on the company's platform - while also attempting to filter out fraudulent accounts.

This, of course, is only "one part of [Facebook's] strategy for holding purveyors of "fake news" to account.

Here’s how it works:

  • We use signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to predict potentially false stories for fact-checkers to review.
  • When fact-checkers rate a story as false, we significantly reduce its distribution in News Feed — dropping future views on average by more than 80%.
  • We notify people who’ve shared the story in the past and warn people who try to share it going forward.
  • For those who still come across the story in their News Feed, we show more information from fact-checkers in a Related Articles unit.
  • We use the information from fact-checkers to train our machine learning model, so that we can catch more potentially false news stories and do so faster.

The company announced its plans on a conference call with journalists organized to keep them apprised of its efforts to combat tampering in the 2018 midterms. The contents of the call were later summarized in a blog post. The group of executives who spoke on the call included Alex Stamos, the company's outgoing chief information security officer.

Stamos illustrated how the company is developing new methods for rooting out people making accounts under fake identities. It's also cracking down on faked metrics used to make content appear more popular than it actually is.

"It’s important to match the right approach to each of these challenges" Stamos said on the call, according to the Verge, as Stamos explained how Facebook was applying different strategies based on each individual market's needs.

Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook's product manager for civic engagement who was also on the call, explained that Facebook is now proactively looking for foreign-based pages producing political content that the company believes to be inauthentic. If a user is found in violation, they will be manually removed from the platform. This applies to everything from suspicious advertisements to misleading memes.

Now our work also includes a new investigative tool that we can deploy in the lead-up to elections. I’d love to tell you a little bit about how it works.

Rather than wait for reports from our community, we now proactively look for potentially harmful types of election-related activity, such as Pages of foreign origin that are distributing inauthentic civic content. If we find any, we then send these suspicious accounts to be manually reviewed by our security team to see if they violate our Community Standards or our Terms of Service, said Chakrabarti.

Facebook first piloted this tool in the Alabama special election, but has now deployed it to protect this year's Italian election - and it will be used to "protect Facebook users" during this year's midterms.

The new rules build on the ad-transparency measures introduced by the company late last year, which purported to show Facebook users the name of the organization funding the content, as well as any other pertinent information.

But those red flags were shown to entrench some people’s belief in false stories, leading Facebook to shift to showing Related Articles with perspectives from other reputable news outlets. As of yesterday, Facebook’s fact checking partners began reviewing suspicious photos and videos which can also spread false information. This could reduce the spread of false news image memes that live on Facebook and require no extra clicks to view, like doctored photos showing the Parkland school shooting survivors ripping up the constitution.

The news comes on the heels of a revelation earlier today that the company is ending its partnership with "third party" data providers including TransUnion and Experian who supply advertisers with even more specific data gleaned from real-life activities and other parties that aren't Facebook.

But as CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before two Congressional committees early next month, the company hasn't said anything about its partnerships with third-party "affiliate marketers" who help hucksters sell dubious health supplements and other fraudulent products on Facebook's platform.