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How people, technology help Facebook fact-check posts for accuracy

Facebook has been facing flak over allegations of political bias even as it works with independent third-party fact-checkers certified through a non-partisan international fact-checking network. In India, the social media company works with eight partners including India Today Group, Vishvas News (Jagran), FACTLY, NewsMobile, FactCrescendo, BOOM Live, AFP and the Quint, which fact-check in 11 Indian languages and English.

Also read: Parliament panel grills Facebook officials

People familiar with the matter said the fact-checking system is a hybrid between people and technology. They added Facebook’s machine learning models identify posts that may be false by using signals like how something may be going viral, user reports, and comments expressing disbelief. Facebook also allows several rating options that third-party fact-checkers can apply to content.

Content that has no basis is marked as false. Image, audio, or video content edited or synthesised beyond adjustments for clarity or quality in ways that could mislead people is marked as altered. Content that has some factual inaccuracies falls under the partly false category, etc.

When fact-checkers rate a story as false or altered, Facebook significantly reduces its distribution. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news also have their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise removed. Facebook users are also allowed to mark content as false or misleading.

Facebook’s strategy to tackle misinformation is three-fold, the people said. It also involves the removal of accounts and content that violate community standards.

FACTLY founder Rakesh Dubbudu said any fact-checker employs various methods when it comes to assessing posts on the social media network. “We focus on virality and potential for real-world harm when it comes to flagging the posts.”

Dubbudu said the role of a fact-checker is limited to assessing misinformation and Facebook has to take further action. “Our process is simple. We ensure that when we do a fact-check, everything is completely transparent and the public can repeat the same actions to confirm the information.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to HT’s request for comments.

The Parliamentary standing committee on information and technology on Wednesday summoned Facebook officials following media reports that an executive from the company’s India operations team intervened to protect a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician from action over hate speech.

The Congress has sought a joint parliamentary committee investigation into the allegations against Facebook, a criminal inquiry into the company’s conduct, and termination of its contracts with the government.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alleging company executives were biased against people who believed in BJP’s ideology.

According to a second fact-checker, who did not wish to be named, if the right-wing ecosystem is throwing up more misinformation, then how is their fault. “Ahead of the Karnataka elections in 2018, we had also pointed to various pages that were spreading Congress propaganda.”

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