WORKERS IN charge of Facebook's one-year old fact-checking efforts have spoken out to say that the initiative is ineffectual and little more than good publicity.
According to The Guardian, the staff journalists - all of which work for third-party companies and organisations to perform the fact-checking - are also unhappy that Facebook refused to disclose data on the efforts to stop the spread of fake news.
"I don't feel like it's working at all. The fake information is still going viral and spreading rapidly," The Guardian quoted one anonymous source as saying. "It's really difficult to hold [Facebook] accountable. They think of us as doing their work for them. They have a big problem, and they are leaning on other organizations to clean up after them."
At the heart of the concens by the fact checkers is this last point in the quote - that it feels like Facebook doesn't own responsibility of the success or failure of the efforts, and that outsourcing the job to third-parties has created a potential conflict of interest. Third-party fact checking organisations currently include the Associated Press, Snopes, ABC News, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org.
When trying to establish the effect of curbing the spread of fake news - by flagging it as a disputed story - it'd be useful for those external fact checkers to have access to information like which sites are flagged most frequently and what the effects are of labelling a story as disputed. Sources cited also expressed concern at how frequently stories are even being labelled as disputed.
In response, Facebook told the organisation that once a story had been labelled as inaccurate, its spread across Facebook (measured by post impressions) would be 80 percent lower.
Overall, the message from third-party fact-checkers is that it's still too little, too late - and that conflicts of interest mean that all the work should be done in-house.
"By offering this money, which journalistic outlets desperately need, it's weakening our ability to do any fact-checking of these disinformation purveyors like Facebook.They are basically buying good PR by paying us," another source told The Guardian.
Underlying all of this are the tools in Facebook's armoury against fake news, but again, fact checkers say these are insufficient, at best. For example, an article flagged as false, can simply be uploaded to a different URL and re-shared without being flagged.
Others noted that it was still simple enough for anyone to purchase ads (or 'boost' posts) without the same level of scrutiny.
In recent months, the extent to which Facebook's network was used to spread masses of misinformation and to interfere with the US elections and Brexit vote has come under close scrutiny, with the company revealing that divisive political ads reached at least 126 million US residents. µ
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