Facebook taps community reviewers to aid in fact-checking

MANILA, Philippines – Facebook is tapping community reviewers to help third-party organizations of fact checkers address false claims faster, the social media network announced on Tuesday, December 17.

For a pilot test run to be conducted in the United States in the next few months, Facebook is hiring a “diverse group of community reviewers” as contractors through Appen, one of their program partners.

Appen "sources, vets, selects, and qualifies community reviewers, with protections in place to avoid gaming and manipulation," Facebook said.

The community reviewers will do the initial review and research on “the most obvious online hoaxes” and will also be tasked to find information that can contradict other claims shared on the platform that are flagged by Facebook’s tools as potentially dubious.

“They are not making final decisions themselves. Instead, their findings will be shared with the third-party fact checkers as additional context as they do their own official review,” wrote product manager Henry Silverman in a post shared on Facebook Newsroom.

The goal of the community reviewers is to simplify and fast-track the process for third-party fact checkers, who will still be doing the original reporting. The community reviewers will not have the same powers as the fact checkers, but they will help determine which claims are easily fact-checkable or not.

At the Facebook Fact Checking Partner Summit in November, Silverman also clarified what the reviewers would do is to simply precede and complement the fact checkers’ work, especially since the reviewers will come from different key demographics, such as age, gender, education, or even political ideology. The output will still come from the fact checkers.

Fact-checking partners will be able to see the collective assessment of community reviewers as a signal in selecting which stories to review and rate, Silverman explained.

“We believe that by combining the expertise of third-party fact-checkers with a group of community-based reviewers, we can evaluate misinformation faster and make even more progress reducing its prevalence on Facebook," said Silverman.

Fact checkers welcome the announcement, but there are also a few misgivings. International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) Director Baybars Örsek, for one, is concerned about the qualifications of the community reviewers.

“While supportive of community reviewers idea for scalability reasons, I’m doubtful except a few at Facebook knows how those reviewers are selected and audited. Just thinking the immense effort and delicacy we’ve put to audit the ⁦IFCN⁩ criteria," he tweeted.

To become a signatory to the IFCN, organizations have to undergo a rigorous application process that is reviewed by external assessors. All the results are also publicly available on the IFCN website for transparency.

Still, Örsek is hopeful that the new program would be a stepping stone toward more political fact-checking.

“In the last few years, due to Facebook’s vast financial incentives (+political pressure and lack of alternative funding), fact-checkers have been encouraged to do more fact-checking, therefore less political fact-checking. I hope [community reviewers] will be the first step to change this,” he added.

Facebook said potential community reviewers would have to pass a background check and meet a series of requirements and criteria – including being over 18, having gone through a background check, and being computer literate enough to perform an internet search, among others.

"Reviewers will be audited on an ongoing basis to ensure they’re adhering [to] the guidelines and training that outlines the process," Facebook added.

The social media network is piloting this process in the US over the next few months and will evaluate whether to roll it out more widely in 2020. – Rappler.com 

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is part of the Rappler Research Team’s fact-checking unit. Aside from debunking dubious claims, she also enjoys crunching data and writing stories about the economy, environment, and media democracy.

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