Facebook’s fake news war to hit content marketers

fake news
The Facebook algorithms identify a story circulating online, which it puts in a queue for the third-party fact-checkers to verify if it is fake news. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Social media giant, Facebook, earlier this month announced that it had launched a third-party fact-checking program in Kenya in partnership with Africa Check and news agency, AFP.
While the move will help consumers evaluate the accuracy of information on the platform, reports show it could also negatively impact content marketers whose articles are flagged as fake when they are true.
The Facebook algorithms identify a story circulating online, which it puts in a queue for the third-party fact-checkers to verify if it is fake news. They are required to write a short report on the article, photo or video in question, giving evidence that shows whether it is fake or not.

It is then rated on accuracy and if it is rated low, then the platform “down ranks” the content such that its visibility in the timeline is diminished hence not seen by many people, thereby not causing a reaction.

“There are two ways on how an article is flagged; Facebook has an algorithm, which will see that something is trending and is causing a reaction on the platform, therefore, becoming a candidate for fact-checking. The other is that users can report a “suspicious” article, photo or video such that it is pushed into our queue for verification,” said Alphonce Shiundu, Country Editor, Africa Check, a non-profit, non-partisan fact-checking group.

The parties and Facebook are yet to fully begin fact-checking the platform’s content in Kenya but in Canada, where the program was launched in July this year, approximately 300 to 2,000 posts are flagged daily.

Still, research released this year in September 2018 by Stanford University, US, on the trends in the diffusion of misinformation on social media, found that the level of interaction with fake news sites on Facebook remains high with engagements of an average 70 million per month.


“Facebook fake news sites engagements fell from a peak of roughly 200 million per month at the end of 2016 to roughly 70 million per month at the end of our sample period in July 2018. The… decline in Facebook engagements may partly reflect the under-sampling of sites that could have entered or gained popularity later in our sample period, as well as efforts by fake news sites to evade exposure on Facebook by changing their domain names,” reported Stanford.

However, they have been concerns raised on the impact of the Facebook algorithm in tackling misinformation on the platform and that it can be biased to some publishers as it ranks their articles low, reducing the readership, and hence can negatively impact content marketers efforts in reaching their audience.

In a report by Facebook in June 2018 on how its fact-checking program is performing, it noted that it was up to the fact-checkers to accept a publisher’s position that challenges a decision of low ranking especially after their article has already reached a lot of people.

“While we work with the International Fact-Checking Network to approve all our partners and make sure they have high standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency, we continue to face accusations of bias. Which has left people asking, in today’s world, is it possible to have a set of fact-checkers that are widely recognized as objective? We have also made some changes how we let people know that a story is disputed so that they can learn more and come to their own conclusions,” said Facebook.

The fact-checkers are required to clearly state the source of their evidence showing the validity of the flagged information. For Africa Check, it conducts old fashion research which includes; finding the source of the information, talking to experts that have done research on the topic at hand, getting their opinion on it and still asking for research evidence from them (papers or studies) for further reference.

It then publishes the report online such that consumers looking at the work can also verify the same information.

“We vouch for the accuracy of our methods because we have inbuilt control mechanism. We also subscribe to the principles by the International Fact Checkers Network, the global body that decides on the principles that fact checkers should follow,” said Mr Shiundu.

- African Laughter