Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has announced that it will begin testing its fake news filtering system in Germany. The company said it began testing a similar filter that would allow users to report fake news in the United States last month. Facebook says it expects to announce efforts in additional countries soon.
German Facebook users will be able to report any story they see in their news feed as fake. Facebook will then send that story to German fact-checking non-profit Correctiv for review. If Correctiv discovers the story is indeed fake, it will get flagged and users will be given “a link to [a] corresponding article explaining why” the story is false.
Flagged stories will no longer be prioritized in people’s feeds, can’t be made into an ad, and can’t be promoted. However, people will still be able to share these stories, just with a warning attached. Facebook said it believes adding additional context to stories deemed fake is important. The additional context can help people decide for themselves what to believe.
It is suspected that fake news played a significant part in the surprise election of Donald Trump as president in the United States last November. A fake story saying the Pope endorsed president-elect Donald Trump spread rapidly on the site during the campaign. The fake news issue didn’t end with the election. Just last week, a fake story about Flo Rida performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration trended on the platform.
German officials are concerned about fake news potentially affecting the country’s upcoming elections. Germany own intelligence agency has raised alarms about a disinformation campaign intended “to influence the federal election.” Angela Merkel, chancellor, has warned there are signs that online attacks and misinformation coming from Russia. Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, warned that fake news posed a “danger to our culture of debate.”
In December, German lawmakers announced a bill that would fine Facebook 500,000 euros (about $535,000) for not removing fake news posts within 24 hours. It is unknown whether these new features were introduced in reaction to the potential new German law. It remains to be seen how effective this effort will be. A false story recently spread on the site that claimed Germany’s oldest church was set on fire by a mob of 1,000 people.