In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, the programme forms part of Facebook's work in aiming to assess the accuracy and quality of news that people find on Facebook, while reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.
Working with a network of fact-checking organisations and certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.
According to Facebook, feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals that it uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos.
Facebook says that if one of its fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in its News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook head of public policy Africa, says, "The expansion of third-party fact-checking, now covering 15 countries in a little over a year, shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme."
"Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility that we take seriously. We know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue," adds Boakye.
"We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution. It is one of many initiatives and programmes that we are investing in to help improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we've made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news," says Boakye.
When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook says that it will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that's been determined to be false. This intends to empower people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.
Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News director says, "AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation."
Eric Mugendi, managing editor from Pesa Check — who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English — says, "Social networks like Facebook haven't just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the Internet for many Africans."
"They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm," adds Mugendi.
"The project helps us to respond more quickly and directly. We're seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise," Mugendi says.
"This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa," he says.
Caroline Anipah, programme officer at Dubawa (Ghana) says, "Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana, where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability."
Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, says he is in support of the expansion to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Conakry and Cote d’Ivoire.
"Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they've received via social media, asking us 'Is this true? Can you check it?' It's our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that's circulating, and get the truth back out there," says Thomson.
"Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place," Thomson concludes.
Not all fake news is created equal — some are more obviously spotted. Learn more in our article, Five types of fake news and how to spot them.
*Image courtesy of Facebook