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Not enough is being done to label fake news on social media sites - report

FuJo Director Jane Suiter said that the “most significant shortcoming of empowering consumers” was labelling trustworthy content.
Apr 28th 2020, 6:11 PM 9,007 26

A REPORT INTO disinformation over a 12-month period to November 2019 has found that not enough is being done by tech companies to label false and misleading information on their sites as fake news.

The report, compiled by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (the BAI) and DCU’s Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo), can be found here.

Four companies – Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft – signed a Code of Practice on Disinformation in September 2018, pledging to tackle misinformation on its sites by “elevating authoritative content”. This report analyses the progress they have made.

The report found in its conclusion that while some progress was made, shortcomings were also evident.

“The most significant shortcoming in the empowering of consumers is in relation to the labelling of trustworthy content.

The researchers could not identify any news items across any of the four signatories’ platforms which had been labelled as fact-checked with the corresponding verdict on its authenticity.
This represents a substantial obstacle in assisting consumers to make informed decisions when they encounter news online.

The report concluded that the level at which Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft had engaged in the disinformation pledges they signed up to was “mixed and inconsistent”.

Facebook

Facebook told the authors of the report that stories that have been fact-checked by a third party and given the result of ‘false’ will be demoted, meaning the post will not be shown at the top of the news feed on Facebook and any potential future views will be reduced.

On Instagram, Facebook reported that it neither shows nor recommends content containing misinformation on the Explore or hashtag pages.

But – Facebook doesn’t include current and former politicians and political candidates in its fact-checking initiatives.

“This means that Facebook will not forward content or advertisements to their third-party fact-checkers for review, nor are the factcheckers permitted to conduct their own fact-checks of political actors directly on the platform,” the report said.

It also noted that Facebook announced on 21 October last year that it would clearly label content that was “false” or “partly false”, but it wasn’t clear how this would be implemented.

Twitter and Google haven’t made pledges to label content that has been fact-checked, or where context has been added; instead they cited their advertising policies and providing consumers with the option to manage their preferences.

Microsoft provided details on the nature of all of the different types of user data they store and provided consumers with the ability to view, clear or download this data.

Analysis

Chief executive of the BAI, Michael O’Keeffe said: “Although the report represents some progress in the monitoring of disinformation online, and comprehensive efforts have been made by Code signatories to provide greater transparency to consumers and the research community, it also indicates significant weaknesses in terms of the content and structure of the Code, and the processes for reporting, monitoring and enforcing the commitments, particularly at national level.”

FuJo Director, Jane Suiter said that the “most significant shortcoming of empowering consumers” was the labelling of trustworthy content.

“Our researchers could not identify any news item across any platform that had been labelled as fact-checked with the corresponding verdict on its authenticity.”

Note: TheJournal.ie partners with Facebook as part of its third-party factchecking project to verify and debunk posts on its platform in an effort to stop the spread of misleading and false posts.

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Gráinne Ní Aodha

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