Facebook won’t allow its claims about the effectiveness of its fact-checking systems to be fact-checked

Politico reports: The fact-checkers enlisted by Facebook to help clear the site of “fake news” say the social media giant’s refusal to share information is hurting their efforts.

In December, Facebook promised to address the spread of misinformation on its platform, in part by working with outside fact-checking groups. But because the company has declined to share any internal data from the project, the fact-checkers say they have no way of determining whether the “disputed” tags they’re affixing to “fake news” articles slow — or perhaps even accelerate — the stories’ spread. They also say they’re lacking information that would allow them to prioritize the most important stories out of the hundreds possible to fact-check at any given moment.

Some fact-checkers are growing frustrated, saying the lack of information is undermining Facebook’s efforts to combat false news reports.

“I would say that the general lack of information — not only data — given by Facebook is a concern for a majority of publishers,” Adrien Sénécat, a journalist at Le Monde, one of the news organizations that has partnered with Facebook to fact-check stories, said in an emailed response.

Representatives from Facebook say that privacy concerns prevent them from sharing raw data with outsiders.

In the wake of November’s election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg downplayed the amount of fake news on his platform and called it “a pretty crazy idea” that it could have influenced the election. But a month later, under pressure, the company announced a slew of efforts designed to combat the problem, including the arrangement with fact-checkers. “We’re committed to doing our part,” Facebook’s vice president for News Feed, Adam Mosseri, wrote. “We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully.”

Mosseri has publicly characterized those efforts as effective. In April, he said in an address, “We’ve seen overall that false news has decreased on Facebook,” but the company did not provide proof of the claim. “It’s hard for us to measure,” Mosseri had added, “because we can’t read everything that gets posted.”

Sara Su, a product manager on Facebook’s News Feed team, told POLITICO that she believes the fact-check program is working: “We have seen data that, when a story is flagged by a third party fact-checker, it reduces the likelihood that somebody will share that story.” She declined, though, to provide any specific numbers.

Facebook does plan on eventually sharing more information with the fact-checking groups it works with, according to Su, though exactly how much and when is undetermined. “I wish I could give you dates, but we are committed to working with our fact-checking partners to continue to refine the tools to be more efficient,” she said.

For now, many fact-checkers are taking Facebook’s claims of success with the proverbial grain of salt. [Continue reading…]

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