Facebook has started fact-checking photos and videos, as a part of a larger plan to prevent foreign agents from using the platform to spread propaganda and influence elections.
Executives on Thursday explained Facebook’s plans in a blog post and on a conference call with journalists. Some of the plans had already been announced—for instance, verifying election ad buyers by requesting copies of government-issued IDs and by confirming addresses with snail mail.
Now, fact-checking efforts will also encompass photos and videos. Product manager Tessa Lyons said the company began fact-checking photos and videos yesterday, in France, with the help of the country’s news agency Agence France-Presse.
Facebook announced earlier this month that it was teaming up with the Associated Press so the news agency could help spot and debunk false news stories. The company did not announce today if or when the AP would help fact-check photos and videos.
Facebook first began taking action against election interference in December 2016. Under the false-news strategy that Facebook already had in place, Facebook passed flagged stories to fact-checkers. Under the new initiative discussed today, Facebook is allowing fact-checkers to proactively track and flag stories, videos, and memes, as fact-checkers might be able to spot propaganda before Facebook’s system does. Facebook currently has third-party fact-checkers in six countries. The most recent additions are Mexico and Italy.
Lyons said Facebook will also be more transparent about fact-checking, and will send notices to page administrators when their content has been flagged as fake news and removed. The company will also target pages that pump out false news. “We reduce their distribution and remove their ability to advertise and monetize—stopping them from reaching, growing, or profiting from their audience,” Lyons said.
During the call with journalists, product manager Samidh Chakrabarti said that Facebook feels “like we’re going to be in a really good place for the 2018 midterms.” But foreign agents and campaign strategists still have plenty of time to figure out what Facebook hasn’t accounted for in this plan, if they haven’t already.