As elections loom closer, Facebook seems to be gearing up to fight the fake news monster this time. To fortify its third-party fact-checking programme in India, the social media giant has included the India Today Group, Factly, and Fact Crescendo. The company will not only review articles, but will also provide its team in India with the relevant tools to monitor
Apart from reviewing articles, the US-based company has also equipped checkers with tools to review photos and videos to aid in identifying and acting against any kind of misinformation. “Starting today, India Today Group, Vishvas.news, Factly, Newsmobile, and Fact Crescendo, all of whom are certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, will review news stories on Facebook for facts, and rate their accuracy…” ET quoted Facebook from a statement.
Facebook has further said that such reviews will apply to content in languages such as English, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi. “We are committed to fighting the spread of false news on Facebook, especially ahead of the 2019 General Election campaign season. And one way to do that is by growing our partnership with third-party fact-checkers. We now have seven partners across the country covering six languages, who will review and rate the accuracy of stories on Facebook,” Facebook India News Partnership Head Manish Khanduri told ET.
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He called these efforts a part of a long-term commitment “because the tactics used by bad actors are always changing”. “So we are trying to take action in the short-term, but also invest in partnerships, tools and technology we’ll need to stay ahead of new types of false news as well,” he added.
With general elections right round the corner, the government has been giving social media platforms fair warning of strong action in case of any attempts made to manipulate the electoral process via unethical means to favour certain parties.
The government has been suggesting modification in IT rules, so that internet elements, such as social media, online platforms, and messaging apps, are held accountable for spreading ‘fake news’. As such, these elements will be directed to arrange for tools needed for identifying and limiting illegal content and adhere to diligence practices that are firmer.
The last few months have seen social media players such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, making efforts to make political advertisements on their platform clearer. Most of them have also announced several measures to maintain the integrity of this year’s elections.
Rumours and fake news have been troubling both Facebook and WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook. Steps, such as sensitisation programmes among users, have been taken by both entities across the country.
Since last year’s Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal, Facebook has been facing the brunt of government agencies demanding to know how the social media entity intends to protect user data. As a result, Facebook has been collaborating with several partners to make a visible effort in curbing manipulated posts on its platform. BOOM and news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), are already its partners.
Last year, CA employee, Christopher Wylie, became a whistleblower when he alleged that private data of millions of Facebook users became available to CA in an inappropriate way, which was used in many incidents of data manipulation, such as the 2016 US elections, Brexit, and Indian political events.
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The Indian IT ministry released a letter to Facebook, enquiring about the misuse of data belonging to Indian users. Zuckerberg then declared Facebook’s intentions to take precautions against the misuse of user data. However, in the light of Wylie’s exposure, doubts remained. Ever since, Facebook has been putting an effort into cleaning up its processes.
Facebook’s current statement explains that to stop a hoax from spreading and reducing the number of people who see it, a fact-checker rates a story as false. As a result, the story gets played down in the news feed, significantly decreasing its distribution.
In addition, pages and domains that make it a practice to share fake news will also experience a fall in their distribution, leading to a decreasing ability to monetise and advertise. This will lessen the motive of finance from spreading rumours. According to Facebook, after a story is rated as false, with the help of tools, the platform has the capability of limiting its distribution by upto 80 %.