ABC News Teams With Facebook to Fact-Check Fake News

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

ABC News is partnering with Facebook to debunk fake news. The new initiative, unveiled Thursday by Mark Zuckerberg’s social media network, lets users flag stories they suspect are bogus for vetting by ABC News and three other partners: the fact-checking sites Snopes.com, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.org.

ABC News will post their findings on its various platforms, including ABCNews.com and its streaming network.

“We’ve seen the really toxic effects of fake news over the entire election cycle,” ABC News president James Goldston told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

Facebook has come under enormous pressure to ferret out an epidemic of fake news disseminated during the vitriolic 2016 presidential campaign. The tipping point came earlier this month when a North Carolina man shot up a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant that was at the center of a fake news story involving Hillary Clinton. The story, which claimed that Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the pizza shop, was tweeted by Michael T. Flynn, Donald Trump's pick for National Security adviser. The North Carolina man took a gun to the restaurant to “self-investigate,” he said. Shots were fired, but no one was hurt. Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, continued to tweet out the story even after the armed confrontation; he was exiled from the campaign, which had earlier requested security clearance for him, according to new reports. 

Facebook users will be able to report a potential fake story by clicking in the upper right-hand corner of a post. That story is then sent to ABC News and Facebook's other partners for vetting. If the story is identified as fake, it will be flagged and there will be links to corresponding articles and blog posts that debunk the article. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in the News Feed. It still will be possible to share these stories, but they will carry a warning that they have been disputed. Once a story is flagged, it cannot be made into an ad and promoted. Facebook and Google announced the week after the Nov. 8 election that they would ban fake news sites from using their ad networks.

"We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share," Adam Mosseri, Facebook's vp of News Feed, said in a statement announcing the initiative.

ABC News will have a unit of six fact-checkers designated to work on the project, but the organization also will bring the resources of the entire news division to the project. 

“ABC News obviously has a commitment to thorough, accurate, independent journalism,” added Goldston. “I think fake news has had a significant effect to journalism."

Indeed, according to a study conducted by Buzzfeed, in the final three months of the presidential campaign, the top-performing fake news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from 19 major news outlets combined. Said Buzzfeed; "During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook."

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