Facebook has a serious problem when it comes to fake news, with it spreading wildly on its platform and leading to real world harm in some notable instances.
Thankfully it’s a problem that the social media company is aware of, and is actively trying to combat.
Along with making some much-needed changes to its community guidelines in recent months, as well as suspending some high-profile bad actors from the platform, Facebook can always do more, especially when it comes to the local landscape.
This makes SA the second country on the African continent to do so, with Kenya being the first earlier int he week. These two hubs will now serve as the proving grounds for this programme, as Facebook says it plans roll out similar initiatives to other parts of Africa in coming months and years.
“We’re committed to South Africa, and take our responsibility seriously in tackling the spread of false news, and helping to improve the quality of information people find on our platform. Once a fact-checker rates a piece of content as false, we’re able to reduce its future views by an average of 80%, helping to curb economic incentives and reduce its spread,” says Emilar Gandhi, Facebook Public Policy manager for the SADC region.
In order to lessen the amount of fake news and misinformation on its platform, Facebook will rely on a combination of machine learning and community reporting in order to flag potentially inaccurate stories.
From there, experts from firms like Africa Check and AFP will examine the report and check the validity of the story. Should it be found to contravene Facebook’s community guidelines, the content level of share-ability will be lessened. If it poses potential real world harm, or amounts to serious hate speech, the company will take the further step of removing it from the platform altogether.
Facebook mentions a caveat on the latter, however, with the company stating several times during a media presentation in Johannesburg earlier today that, “It is not the arbiter of truth. Nor does it want to be.”
As such, Facebook Africa says that it is trying to walk the fine line between policing content and allowing its community the freedom of expression.
While we do have qualms about Facebook taking such a stance when it comes to fake news, it is at least good to see the company take some action in ensuring that its platform does not become a breeding ground for misinformation.
It should be interesting to see whether or not Facebook in partnership with Africa Check, AFP and other fact-checking organisations can indeed curb fake content.