India now joins a host of countries where Facebook has been piloting projects to combat the problem of fake news, which many even call an ‘epidemic’.

Checking fake news during Karnataka elections Facebook partners with BOOM
Karnataka Elections Karnataka 2018 Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 19:22

In order to combat the spread of fake news, under-fire social media giant Facebook has launched its pilot project to combat the same in Karnataka. On Monday, Facebook announced that it has partnered with BOOM, a fact-checking website, to combat false news in Karnataka, which goes to polls on May 12.

India now joins a host of countries where Facebook has been piloting projects to combat the problem of fake news, which many even call an ‘epidemic’. The social media giant has turned to third-party fact checkers in the US, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, and lately, the Philippines.

But how does Facebook plan to go about combating the problem of false news? Speaking to TNM, Jency Jacob, BOOM’s Managing Editor says that when a certain link is found to contain false information, Facebook would limit the reach of that particular link on the platform.

“The pilot project that we’re doing with them only looks at links, not pages, images, or videos. You need to have a URL where this misinformation has to be resting, which we are looking at, and doing an explanatory article on. What Facebook has said is that whenever they find that a third-party fact-checker says that it is false, then they would be limiting the distribution of that article on Facebook,” he said.

Facebook reportedly said that BOOM would review English language news stories “flagged on Facebook, check facts, and rate their accuracy.”

This move, however, isn’t because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but after the US Presidential Elections in November 2016. According to a recent study, fake news could have significantly reduced support for Hillary Clinton, and could have impacted voters, and suggests that it may even be the reason for incumbent president Donald Trump’s victory.

Facebook first announced its measures to combat fake news in December 2016, right after the elections. In October 2017, the company announced that “once we receive a false rating from one of our fact-checking partners, we are able to reduce future impressions on Facebook by 80 percent.”

Facebook reportedly said in a blog post that other than significantly reducing the reach of fake news,“ pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise removed.”

"We also want to empower people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share by providing the community with more information and control... If third-party fact-checkers write articles debunking a false news story, we'll show it in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed," Facebook added.

In Karnataka, with less than a month to go for the date of polling, fake news is very much a part of the social media war that has erupted. This includes a fake list of Congress candidates and a video of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah dancing (which turned out to be a look-alike.)

“Fake news is the biggest problem being faced by all three of us, the political parties,” BJP’s social media cell (Karnataka) convenor Balaji Srinivas told the Economic Times.

But what can you, as a consumer, do to help? If you find a story that could potentially be false, you can flag the same to BOOM by sending them a message on WhatsApp at 7700906111 or writing in to them on their social media profiles. Users can also report links to Facebook.