Facebook has announced the signing of Newtral, led by journalist Ana Pastor, and Maldita.es, the independent web of data verification, to combat false news on its platform. The agency France Presse will also extend its verification agreement with Facebook to Spain, which it already has in 15 other countries.
Spain joins the external data verification program that Facebook already has in 26 other countries and in 22 languages. "These verifiers will review and evaluate the accuracy of Facebook content published in Spanish," explains Facebook in the post where he has announced the agreements. The social network already has 43 verifying partners around the world.
Facebook started this program in December 2016, just two months after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The network enables a special tool for its partners. There, thanks to artificial intelligence, a queue of pieces is appearing that users or signals detected by an algorithm -for example, the number of users exclaiming that "it can not be true" in the comments-mark as possible false news.
Facebook started this program just two months after the election of Donald Trump as president
The members have no obligation to verify a daily minimum of news and more than one can work with the same information: "That one means of giving a news does not mean that another does not give it, here they will bear the seal of all those who verify it, just as with traditional media, "says Ana Pastor. Fact-checkers can also add false news they have found on Facebook without the network having detected them.
The requirement that Facebook requests to reach an agreement is that the partners belong to the International Data Verification Network (IFCN), created by the Poynter Institute of the United States. Newtral and Maldita.es are the only two Spanish media on the IFCN's list of 67 fact-checkers.
It does not eliminate false news
Despite the verification, Facebook does not eliminate false news. It only reduces its distribution among users. If a piece of news is given as false, Facebook stops placing it on the wall of potential readers. But the piece is still seen on the network although the report of the fact-checker it appears as a "related article". Only the reiteration penalizes the pages that disseminate false news, which end up being unable to advertise or monetize their work on the platform. Facebook does not detail how much repetition implies sanction. Those affected can also claim the verifications of the verifiers, who must respond within a week.
Facebook does not give specific data on the results of this work. The most accurate figure that Facebook offers is "80%": "Our experience shows that, once a story is classified as false, we are able to reduce its distribution by 80%." That 80% is not constant. In other page of the network specifies that it is only an "average".
Newtral and Maldita.es have explained to EL PAÍS that Facebook is not expected to share data in Spain on the success or otherwise of its work: "Facebook gives very little information, but is doing things to improve it," says Clara Jiménez Cruz, co-founder of Maldita.es. One of those alleged things is an announced quarterly report: "We are starting to send reports that include personalized statistics that reflect the work and impact of each verifier," Facebook said in December. There is no confirmation that these reports are going to arrive shortly in Spain
The external verification program of Facebook has already suffered abandonments
Facebook's external verification program has already suffered abandonment. In February, two of the big partners announced that they were leaving: the Associated Press agency and the legendary American verification website Snopes. Although neither of the two rules to re-collaborate with Facebook. Snopes explained in a post that they must "determine with certainty that our efforts to help any particular platform are a net positive factor for our online community, publication and staff." The collaboration with Facebook represented $ 100,000 for Snopes in 2017, as revealed in its annual report.
In Spain at the moment they do not fear that the departures of AP and Snopes are an example for other Facebook partners: "In the new world we are in, I have the feeling that everything is more flexible, people go in and out of places. It will have to be seen in a few months or a year, "explains Pastor.
Newtral is the unusual producer of El Objetivo, Ana Pastor's program at LaSexta. One of its legs is a web formed by twelve journalists and four engineers whose data verification is as an axis. Maldita.es, directed by Jiménez Cruz and Julio Montes, emerged from the germ initiated by Maldita Hemeroteca in the program El Objetivo. In 2018 the project formed by a team of nine people managed to raise more than 70,000 euros in a successful crowdfunding to become a foundation.
Despite this collaboration, Facebook has other even less transparent services: "Facebook is the platform that is doing the most against misinformation, despite the black hole that is WhatsApp," says Jiménez Cruz. The encryption of WhatsApp messages prevents, according to Facebook, that they can read the messages and can operate a service controlled by artificial intelligence.
Facebook's attempts to limit false news with verification have a part of the scientific evidence, that defends that the rational explanation of a fact or the denial of a lie does not cure to all those who have swallowed the hoax.