According to the Financial Times, Facebook is rolling out its fake news filter in Germany; in time for the country’s federal elections due to hold later in 2017.
Lawmakers in Germany are constantly worried by the threats posed by fake news especially as the general elections draw near. The lawmakers are troubled by the influence fake news could have on the outcome of the upcoming election. The last couple of months have been tough for citizens of the European country as a number of fake stories and hoaxes have continued to gain more prominence.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently alerted her country’s parliament to the dangers of fake news and bots, and how they can influence next year’s election. In a speech to the parliament shortly after declaring her intention to contest next year’s election, Merkel said fake news and bots have “manipulated” public opinion online. She therefore urged the lawmakers to “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.”
“Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them,” per AFP.
Facebook users in Germany will now be able to report suspected fake news stories. Such stories will then be sent to the Berlin-based media non-profit Correctiv. Articles deemed to false or fake will then be marked as “disputed,” followed by an explanation of how Correctiv came about the decision.
Facebook will then follow that up by warning users before they share a fake news story. Warnings by Facebook will appear in the lower end of the News Feed where it will not be able to get the kind maximum publicity like other credible stories.
More to come from Facebook
Yet there is more to come from the social media giant; the FT also reports that Facebook similar measure will be extended to other countries around the world. “Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next.”
Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office, and is worried that the spate of fake news spreading on the social media could influence the outcome of next year’s election in her country just like it did the last US election won by Donald Trump, a Republican.
Merkel’s fears are not unfounded considering how Donald Trump of the U.S Republican Party won the last election against all odds. The outcome of the November 8 election is still generating hot debates among analysts who are of the views that fake news and bots may have heavily influenced the results.
Facebook came under severe criticism from German authorities for failing to act decisively against hate speech. Specifically, the country’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas demanded that Facebook be treated as a media company; a situation that would make the social media behemoth accountable for content published on its platform.