In the near future, Facebook’s userbase will be able to point out when certain news stories are false, propagandist literature. With enough such input from its users, Facebook would then declare such material to be of disputed validity through a fact-checking program it is trialing within the German market.
The program’s functionality is as follows: stories flagged as questionable by users would be sent over to Correctiv, a third-party fact checking operation. Should Correctiv’s analysis indicate the story to be shaky, it would lose priority within the algorithm that Facebook uses for posting stores into its news feed and thus reduce the number of users that ever even see the propaganda. A spokesperson for Facebook commented that while the current focus is on Germany, the company is already plotting similar measures in other countries.
Germany was chosen as an initial market after the country experienced its own issues with the proliferation of mendacious material, such as a viral story claiming that St. Reinold had been set on fire by Muslims; the story incorrectly commented that St. Reinold was the country’s oldest church and greatly exaggerated the scale and attendance of a minor fire within the institution. The German government has previously threatened companies like Facebook with libel and slander for failing to curb hate speech appearing on their platforms.
Germany’s issues with propaganda seem to echo the same worries and misinformation that grew rampant during the closing months of the American election of 2016; example false news stories included an endorsement of Donald Trump by the Pope prior to the election. Such stories grew and proliferated in far greater a number than the readership of any legitimate stories, much to the benefit of Trump’s campaign according to some analysts. Barack Obama commented that such stories amounted to nonsense and conspiracy.