Facebook is introducing third-party fact-checking in India, with a pilot program first starting in the state of Karnataka. Facebook says the fact-checking program is aimed at fighting “the spread of false news,” and the company has partnered with independent journalism initiative BOOM, which is certified by the International Fact-Checking Network.
According to The Indian Express, Facebook says India has 201 million active Facebook users as of 2017, falling just behind the United States. Facebook has previously admitted to the spread of misinformation and fake news during the 2016 US presidential election. With India due for a general election in 2019, Facebook seems to be timing this launch to stem such misinformation from influencing political outcomes. Facebook also has fact-checking programs in countries including the Philippines, France,Indonesia, and Italy. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously spoken about his deep concerns about how Facebook could affect democracy.
Starting today, BOOM will review English stories that are flagged and rate their accuracy from six ratings including “false,” “mixture,” “true,” and “not rated.” When a fact-checker flags a news story as false, Facebook will display it lower in the News Feed. Facebook will also notify people and page administrators if they try to share a false story, or if they’ve shared one in the past that’s since been determined to be false.
Pages and domains that continually share news posts deemed fake will have reduced distribution and their ability for monetization and ads will be removed. Facebook claims that once a story is flagged as false, the social media network can reduce the distribution of the content by 80 percent. Facebook says if fact-checkers write articles explaining why a news item is false, it’ll be shown in the Related Articles below that story in the News Feed. “We are beginning small and know it is important to learn from this test and listen to our community as we continue to update ways for people to understand what might be false news in their News Feed,” the company said in a blog post.
Though Facebook’s push to debunk fake news in India is a welcome one, misinformation and viral hoaxes are also rampant on WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook owns. Surpassing 200 million active users in February 2017, WhatsApp is just as popular as Facebook in India, though the app has been testing alerts to stop users from forwarding spam messages.