Last week you wrote that the problem of fake news and false information online is particularly complex. In your words: “Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated.” We agree. It also cannot be the exclusive responsibility of any one organisation.
As a network of independent fact-checking organisations set up to promote accuracy in public debate and the media everywhere from South Africa to Nepal, Argentina to the United Kingdom, and adhering to an open code of fact-checking principles, this is a challenge we deal with daily.
Popular posts carrying fake health claims have served to peddle bogus medical cures and undermine public health campaigns around the world. False claims carried online have been used to incite violence in countries such as Nepal and Nigeria. Spurious allegations on Facebook led to a woman being beaten to death in Brazil.
We recognise that Facebook also represents a crucial tool to disseminate accurate information and that it can be a vital component of a healthy public debate.
We believe that Facebook should start an open conversation on the principles that could underpin a more accurate news ecosystem on its News Feed. The global fact-checking community is eager to take part in this conversation.
Many of our organisations already provide training in fact-checking to media houses, universities, and the general public. We would be glad to engage with you about how your editors could spot and debunk fake claims.
We also believe it is vital to strengthen the role of users in combating disinformation. Numerous studies show that, regardless of partisan ideology, people are very good at accepting information that conforms to their preconceptions, even if it is false.
Facebook should strengthen users’ ability to identify fake posts and false news by themselves, as the scale of the problem is too vast for a purely top-down approach.
We were heartened to hear you express concern about viral hoaxes. We do not presume to have all or even most of the answers to address this scourge, but we urgently invite you to start a conversation about it.
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- This letter was first published by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.