Facebook Enlists Fact-Checkers To Probe Disputed Stories

Mar 7, 2017
Originally published on March 7, 2017 8:22 am
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You may have noticed something new on your Facebook news feed recently, a tag on certain articles that says they're disputed. It's an effort to combat fake news, which is coming after Facebook took a lot of heat for providing a platform for false reports during the 2016 election. NPR's Merrit Kennedy has more.

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: There's a bright red warning next to a recent story that claims President Trump is sending out checks for $612 to people he calls deserving Americans. This story has no factual basis. And the warning alerts Facebook users that the article is disputed by three independent fact checking groups.

This is how it works. If Facebook users report a story as fake news, Facebook may then send it to the fact checkers. And if those partners say the story is fake or a hoax, it'll receive the disputed warning label. Facebook said in an explanatory video that it alerts you again before you can share the story.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You may see an alert before you share some links that have been disputed by third party fact checkers. You can then cancel or continue with the post.

KENNEDY: Facebook says it is going after the most egregious examples and emphasizes that it doesn't see itself as an arbiter of truth. The site has always acted as a gatekeeper by deciding which post to feature, says Harvard business professor Ben Edelman. Historically, it has highlighted posts with more clicks. Now, disputed stories will be positioned lower in news feeds.

BEN EDELMAN: I have to say, I find it a lot easier to celebrate deciding on the basis of truth, rather than just what other people have being tricked into clicking on.

KENNEDY: The platform had a major role in the distribution of fake news, Edelman says. Now, it's taking greater responsibility for flagging it. Merrit Kennedy, NPR News Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.