Facebook will test 'fake news' filtering in Germany

Facebook users will soon be able to flag news stories as fake and the social network may subsequently label the stories as “disputed” in a test of fake news filtering tools starting soon in Germany.

The test will send user-flagged stories to Correctiv, a third-party fact checker. If the fact checker finds they are unreliable, the story will be de-prioritised in Facebook’s news feed algorithm, meaning that fewer people see the story in their feed, according to the Financial Times.

“Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Financial Times.

The Facebook test comes as Germany has had its own “fake news” problem, including one false viral story that said that Germany’s oldest church was set on fire.

German officials had previously threatened internet companies like Facebook with prosecution under strict libel and slander laws if they did not curb “hate speech” and other fake news on their platforms.

“We need to fully utilise all the legal authority at our disposal,” Heiko Mass, Germany’s Justice Minister, said in December.

The proliferation of misleading and false news stories on Facebook has been a heated point of debate in the US as well, with some studies suggesting that clearly false stories — like one about the Pope endorsing President-elect Donald Trump before the election — were more widely read and distributed than truthful stories.

Some observers have said that “fake news” contributed to Trump’s election. President Obama called fake stories on Facebook a “dust cloud of nonsense” and “crazy conspiracy theorizing.”

Facebook currently does not use a fake news filtering system in the US. Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.

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