News agency Reuters has announced a new agreement with Facebook which will see the company work with The Social Network to detect and address misinformation on its platform.
As explained by Reuters:
“The newly created fact-checking unit at Reuters will verify content posted on Facebook and Instagram and identify where media is false or misleading. The fact-checking initiative is an extension of the media verification efforts Reuters has built through its long history of providing accurate and trustworthy news content. Reuters will now assess the authenticity of user-generated photos, videos, headlines and other content on social media, in the run-up to the U.S. election and beyond.”
The expansion will add more to Facebook’s efforts to halt the spread of misinformation – though as noted by TechCrunch, Reuters’ fact-checking team is currently only comprised of four people. That’s probably not going to have a heap of impact when assessing the content being posted by some 1.7 billion users daily.
But still, as Reuters notes, where it will help Facebook is in experience, and providing its understanding of key fact-checking principles. And the Reuters team won’t actually be checking content from all users, but will focus on Facebook’s US audience (190m DAU), providing reports on both English and Spanish language posts on a specially created blog.
The 2020 US Presidential Election is going to be a key test of Facebook’s improved approach to detecting and addressing misinformation, and avoiding influence from foreign activists. Of course, Facebook is still holding firm on its decision to exempt political ads from fact-checking, but after the widespread push from Russian operatives in the last campaign cycle, it’s these misinformation efforts which stand to inflict the most confusion, if left unchecked.
In this sense, any expansion of its fact-checking tools can only help, and while Reuters’ contribution may seem small, in relative terms, it could provide more capacity for Facebook to better understand and address hoax reports before they have a chance to take hold.