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‘Dedicated teams working on elections to prevent malicious actors on Facebook’

  • Published at 01:19 am December 23rd, 2018
web-Shivnath Thukral
Shivnath Thukral Courtesy

Shivnath Thukral is public policy head for India and South Asia at the social media platform Facebook. Prior to joining Facebook, Thukral held position of Managing Director at foreign policy think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in India. Before that, Thukral spent 15 years in journalism at NDTV on various positions. In conversation with <strong>Dhaka <span style="color:red">Tribune's</span></strong> Mahadi Al Hasnat, Thukral explained what is a fake news and how it works, how it can manipulate situations during election, and how people can avoid fake news stories

How long has fake news been around? Why is this in so much discussion right now? 

Fake news has been around for the longest time, only the format has changed now. Earlier it was in the form of rumours and in person communication. As more and more people come online, news is spreading faster and hence the discussion on fake news is much faster now. 

What is Facebook doing to reduce fake news ?

We are committed to reducing the spread of false news on Facebook. We remove fake accounts and disrupt economic incentives for people that share misinformation. We also use signals, like feedback from our community, to identify stories that may be false. 

In countries where we work with independent third-party fact-checkers, stories rated as false by those fact-checkers are shown lower in News Feed. If Pages or domains repeatedly create or share misinformation, we significantly reduce their distribution and remove their advertising rights. 

We're also working to empower people to decide for themselves what to read, trust and share by giving them more context on stories with tools like Related Articles.

Learn more in "Facing Facts," a short film about our fight against misinformation, or Inside Feed, a site dedicated to shedding light on Facebook's people and products.

How do we determine what news is “fake”?

There are simple tips to identify fake news:  

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the link. A phony or look-alike link may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources.
  3. Investigate the source.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. 
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author's sources to confirm that they are accurate.
  8. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false.
  9. Check whether the source is known for parody.
  10. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible

How does Facebook identify fake news? 

We identify news that may be false using signs like feedback from people on Facebook. Fact-checkers may also identify stories to review on their own.

Every day, our team fights the spread of false news through a combination of technology and assessments from independent third party fact checkers. With every false story that surfaces, we learn a bit more about how misinformation takes shape online and, hopefully, how we can detect it earlier.

The checkers review stories, check their facts, and rate their accuracy. Pages and websites that repeatedly share false news will see their distribution reduced and their ability to advertise removed.

What’s the aim of fake news?

Aim of fake news is to spread misinformation and create a situation of real world harm. At Facebook we work very hard to reduce the distribution of misinformation — rather than removing it outright — strikes the right balance between free expression and a safe and authentic community. There are certain forms of misinformation that have contributed to physical harm, and we remove all forms of hate speech.

Hate speech too can constitute harm because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may have dangerous offline implications. It is perhaps one of the most challenging of our standards to enforce because determining whether something is hate speech is so dependent on the context in which it is shared. 

How fake news can manipulate public perception and election environment in a country like Bangladesh?

We believe that Facebook has incredible potential to be a positive force for democracy around the world. We are also aware, however, that there are people who want to abuse our platform to harm the democratic process. This is something we are absolutely committed to preventing.

We are increasing the number of people working on safety and security issues around the world to 30,000 people by the end of the year, and we have dedicated teams working on all of the world's upcoming elections to help detect and prevent malicious actors or abuse on Facebook.

How can fact-checking campaigns make a difference? 

We know that people want to see accurate information on Facebook and we know how misinformation is harmful to our community. Across News Feed, we follow a three-part framework to improve the quality and authenticity of stories: first, we remove content that violates our Community Standards, which enforce the safety and security of the platform. Then, for content that does not directly violate Community Standards, but still undermines the authenticity of the platform, we reduce its distribution. Finally, we inform people by giving them more context on the information they see in News Feed. Context Button is an example of a product where we give people additional information, by sharing more details on the article and the publisher.

Fact checking works in the following way:

  • Fact-checking stories. News stories flagged on Facebook will be reviewed by AFP and our existing BOOM, which have been certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network.
  • Placing false stories lower in News Feed. Stories that have been rated false by a fact-checker will be placed lower in your News Feed.
  • Taking action against Pages and websites that repeatedly share false news.

How is Facebook working to minimize fake news? Specially around election time ?

We cannot combat false news alone - we believe it requires a concerted effort across industry, academics, civil society and government, but we are absolutely committed to playing our part.

We have invested in products, people, partnerships and programs to tackle abuse on our platform and that we are much more invested/committed to protecting the upcoming elections in India. Our efforts are focused on: 

First, we work to stop bad actors from using our services and invest significantly in systems to take down fake accounts. 

Second, we work to disrupt the economic incentives for purveyors of false news.

Third, we prioritize informative posts and down rank inauthentic content, including false news and misinformation, in News Feed.

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