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Facebook is expanding its efforts to filter fake news. Facebook launched tools designed to counter bogus narratives in the U.S. in December. And the social network is now launching a similar set of tools in Germany, which is due to hold a federal election in 2017.
Fake news has actually been around for many years. Newspapers used to print bogus stories all the time, and now online publications have assumed the mantle. Fake news is essentially news that’s either completely made-up, or that has been spun to suit a particular narrative.
The problem is fake news arguably has the power to influence the outcome of elections. See both Donald Trump and Brexit. Because, unlike newspaper stories, a fake news story published online can go viral very quickly. And anyone who believes it is unlikely to ever read the counterstory.
Facebook Fights Fakes
In December 2016, Facebook began the fightback against fake news. Facebook users in the U.S. can now flag news stories as fake, with independent fact-checking organizations used to accurately assess each story. Untruths will be filtered out, helping the truth rise to the top. Or at least that’s the theory.
Now, Facebook is rolling out a similar set of tools to Germany. Once the system goes live “in the coming weeks,” German Facebook users will be asked to flag fake news stories. The Berlin-based non-profit Correctiv will then help sort the truths from the fiction.
Facebook has chosen to fight fake news in Germany next because of the upcoming German federal election. This is set to take place sometime between August and October 2017. So any untrue story that’s widely believed by the electorate could potentially have an impact on the outcome.
Facebook told the FT [paywall], “Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next”. Facebook is hoping to sign up other media partners in Germany and beyond, all of which need to be members of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network.
Valuing the Truth
Your thoughts on fake news will probably be guided by which side of the political divide you’re on. But surely each and every one of us should value the truth above all else, even if that truth runs contrary to our own particular beliefs. The big question is whether we, as a collective whole, trust Facebook to filter out fake news.
What are your views on fake news? Is the spreading of false narratives a problem? Or has it been blown way out of proportion? Do you think Facebook has a duty to publish the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Please let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: Sam Saunders via Flickr