Facebook to Start Fact-Checking Photos, Videos

Facebook to Start Fact-Checking Photos, Videos

The social-media company will use technology and human reviewers to help flag false content

By Micah Maidenberg Updated Sept. 13, 2018 4:06 p.m. ET

Facebook Inc. will begin fact-checking photographs and videos posted on the social media platform, seeking to close a gap that allowed Russian propagandists to promote false news during the last U.S. presidential election.

The company said Thursday it will use technology and human reviewers to try to staunch what it called in a statement “misinformation in these new visual formats.” Previously, the company’s efforts had been focused on rooting out false articles and links.

“The same false claim can appear as an article headline, as text over a photo or as audio in the background of a video,” Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons said in the statement. “In order to fight misinformation, we have to be able to fact-check it across all of these different content types.”

During the 2016 presidential election, a Russian group called the internet Research Agency helped its workers create graphics and videos that could spread misinformation via social media networks, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment earlier this year of three Russian companies and 13 citizens of the country.

A Russian-linked group, for example, once altered a photograph of a woman carrying a sign at a pro-immigration rally in Arkansas. The original text on her sign said, “no human being is illegal” and the doctored photo said “give me more free shit.” It was posted to Facebook in August 2017, where it was liked or shared hundreds of times.

Yet, as with other technology companies, Facebook will face a significant challenge in designing algorithms that are able to catch doctored photographs and videos, or those that have been posted without context. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company’s efforts to fact-check video and photos will rely on technology but also human reviewers who work for groups certified by an organization called the International Fact-Checking Network.

The company is targeting video and photo content that has been “manipulated, taken out of context, or includes a false text or audio claim,” Ms. Lyons said in Facebook’s statement.

She acknowledged that “figuring out whether a manipulated photo or video is actually a piece of misinformation is more complicated; just because something is manipulated doesn’t mean it’s bad.” Ms. Lyons added the company can use technology “to identify different types of manipulations in photos, which can be a helpful signal that maybe something is worth having fact-checkers take a look at.”

In addition to technology, Facebook will rely on user feedback to help flag false content in videos and graphics, similar to what it does now with articles. The firm also examines comments on a post that might indicate misinformation and whether those sharing content have a history of sharing items rated false by fact-checkers.


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