Facebook has become the number one platform used to spread misinformation
Disinformation and misinformation proliferated around the world including in the Western Balkans as the COVID-19 pandemic started. Western Balkans’ fact-checking organisations intensified their work on exposing and countering disinformation, raising the awareness and contributing to local public debates about the problem. As of 30 July, leading fact-checking organisations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia continue their valuable work also within the third-party fact-checking program, which is a part of the Facebook’s strategy against disinformation.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, related misleading health information, consumer fraud, cybercrime and targeted disinformation campaigns have posed several potential risks to the citizens, their health and their trust in health authorities. As High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell stated “the coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a massive infodemic.”
This was the case in the Western Balkans as well which kept the region’s fact-checkers busy debunking fake news, exposing disinformation trends, and contributing to media literacy in particular among younger generations.
Due to similarity of the region’s languages, disinformation does not stop at borders and requires close collaboration between the regions’ fact-checkers. That collaboration has intensified during COVID-19 crisis. For instance, the members of the South-East Europe fact-checking network composed of some Western Balkans and EU member states fact-checking organisations – stepped up their collaboration. They exchanged knowledge and practices at the peak of the crisis, proving their key role in building resilience to disinformation in local communities and in that way strengthening democracy.
Regional organizations achieved the highest international standards in fact-checking. They relied on already existing regional fact-checking networks, linked up with partners in the EU and proved to make a highly valuable contribution in the fight against infodemic. A visible recognition of their work is the fact that four organisations from the region – Raskrinkavanje.ba, Raskrinkavanje.me, Metamorphosis Foundation and Truthmeter, and Istinomer – joined the third-party fact-checking program, part of the Facebook’s strategy against disinformation.
Facebook’s Fact-Checking Programme.
When fact-checkers rate an article as false, Facebook (FB) shows it lower in News Feed, reducing future views by over 80% on average. In practice, FB demotes links rated false and provides more context on the social media. When fact checkers rate the content as false, FB reduces its distribution in News Feed and guide people who try to share it on further context and information available on the subject. FB also notifies people who shared it earlier and shows the fact-checker’s reference article in immediately below the false story in News Feed. FB claims also taking action against repeat offenders by reducing the overall distribution of the Page or website and by cutting off their ability to make money or advertising on FB.