Facebook announces third-party fact checking programme to descry fake news in poll bound Karnataka

With Karnataka heading for the polls in May, Facebook, the Social networking giant has announced a third-party fact-checking programme in the state to fight the spread of fake news on its platform.

Facebook said it has partnered with ‘Boom’ for a pilot in Karnataka, ahead of the Assembly elections which will be held on May 12.

In a blog post today, the US social networking giant said the programme in India aims “to fight the spread of false news on our platform”. Facebook is running similar initiatives in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines and the US.

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Fake news is dangerous for society as it can lead to violence and create false impressions and nobody in their right mind can support the phenomenon. The fake news menace has infested the social networking sites for quite some time now. We have often observed that people from different socio-economic discipline have been misusing social media for their ulterior gains.

Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg had admitted the left bias of Silicon Valley including Facebook. While neutrality can be considered a myth and ‘Boom’ seeming to have a left lean, one wonders if this will end up being another ‘witch hunt’ against the conservative or ‘right wing’ portals and voices.

Facebook had faced similar criticism in the west when they partnered with fact checkers who have an inherent ideological left bias. To balance that, Facebook had partnered with right-wing fact checkers. With the Left bias more prominent in India than perhaps any other country, one wonders if Facebook will also considering balancing the ideological scales and partner with a right-wing website.

Over the last few weeks, Facebook has drawn intense criticism from users and governments globally over a number of issues, ranging from false news on the platform to information of over 80 million users being mined by data analytics and political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica.

The Indian government had also questioned both the companies on the impact of the data breach. Facebook had admitted that nearly 5.62 lakh people in India were “potentially affected” by the incident. Testifying before the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said his organisation was committed to ensure the integrity of elections across the world, including India. In its blogpost, the company said it believes that “once a story is rated as false, we have been able to reduce its distribution by 80 percent, and thereby, improve the accuracy of information on Facebook and reduce misinformation”. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise removed.

The program in India is considered a pilot test, Facebook notes.

“We are beginning small and know it is important to learn from this test and listen to our community as we continue to update ways for people to understand what might be false news in their News Feed,” the company says.

Facebook seems to be heading for a churn post the Cambridge Analytica controversy and the results will certainly be interesting to watch in the coming days.

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