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Facebook Quietly Begins Fact-Checking Political Photos and Videos

Facebook announced today that the company began fact-checking political photos and videos on Wednesday in an attempt to root out fake news. The company announced in a blog post that the changes come as a result of Facebook's plan to review "ongoing election efforts."

"By now, everyone knows the story: during the 2016 US election, foreign actors tried to undermine the integrity of the electoral process," Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, wrote. "Their attack included taking advantage of open online platforms — such as Facebook — to divide Americans, and to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt." Rosen said although the clock cannot be turned back, "we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack [on] our democracy does not happen again." He said Facebook is taking its role in the effort "very, very seriously."

He outlined  several steps Facebook is taking to combat the problem:

  • First, combating foreign interference,
  • Second, removing fake accounts,
  • Third, increasing ads transparency, and
  • Fourth, reducing the spread of false news.

Alex Stamos, the company's chief security officer, added to Rosen's remarks by attempting to define fake news. He listed as the most common issues:

  1. Fake identities– this is when an actor conceals their identity or takes on the identity of another group or individual;
  2. Fake audiences– so this is using tricks to artificially expand the audience or the perception of support for a particular message;
  3. False facts – the assertion of false information; and
  4. False narratives– which are intentionally divisive headlines and language that exploit disagreements and sow conflict. This is the most difficult area for us, as different news outlets and consumers can have completely different on what an appropriate narrative is even if they agree on the facts.

Stamos singled out "organized, professional groups" whose motivation is money. "These cover the spectrum from private but ideologically motivated groups to full-time employees of state intelligence services," he said. "Their targets might be foreign or domestic, and while much of the public discussion has been about countries trying to influence the debate abroad, we also must be on guard for domestic manipulation using some of the same techniques."