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Facebook fact checkers claim the social media giant does not care

Facebook is being accused of not putting emphasis on fact checking despite hiring journalists to do that work.

  • Published: December 17, 2018 7:08 PM IST
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Facebook has faced widespread criticism for spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform. Now, a new report claims that journalists tasked with helping Facebook fix the issue have lost trust in the platform. According to The Guardian, journalists working as fact checkers for Facebook have pushed to end a controversial media partnership with the social network.

The report says that the company has ignored their concerns and failed to use their expertise to combat spread of misinformation. Current and former Facebook fact checkers told The Guardian that the collaboration between the tech platform and outside reporters has produced minimal results. They claim to have lost trust in Facebook since it has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work.

“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” said Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a fact checking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck … They clearly don’t care.”

Some of the journalists working with Facebook said that the hiring of a PR firm which used an antisemitic narrative to discredit critics should be a deal breaker in their work. Apparently the PR firm was responsible for spreading the same propaganda which these journalists hired by the social media giant were supposed to debunk.

After the 2016 presidential election, Facebook revealed how the platform was exploited by Russia’s Internet Research Agency to spread misinformation and divide the community. The platform revealed that fake stories and political propaganda reached millions of users during the election and it announced partnership with news outlets and even created a war room with journalists to flag and stop spread of misinformation at the outset.

Facebook now has more than 40 media partners, working as fact checkers, across the globe. These included the Associated Press, PolitiFact and the Weekly Standard and the company claims the process has led to decline in spread of fake news. However, not every newsroom leader is convinced with Facebook’s response. “Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own fact checkers are calling fake news?” a current Facebook fact checker told The Guardian.

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The backlash seems to be mainly driven by the revelations that Facebook hired a consulting firm to go after its opponents, namely billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. “It’s worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?,” the Facebook fact checker asked.

Facebook fact checkers also claim that they were demoralized by their engagement with Facebook. “They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.” Binkowski added that the partnership between Facebook and fact checkers became counterproductive. “I was bringing up Myanmar over and over and over. They were absolutely resistant,” Binkowski told the publication.

In response to the article, Facebook published a blogpost claiming that it does not ask partners to prioritize factchecks related to advertisers. Facebook is also being accused of putting the blame on journalists and turning them into collateral damage. This new report adds to Facebook’s growing troubles around security and data breach.

  • Published Date: December 17, 2018 7:08 PM IST