Facing pressure from lawmakers and a pending court hearing over the spread of fake news in Germany, Facebook on Sunday announced an initiative to fight fake news in that country.
The move comes exactly one month since the social network unveiled a new effort in the United States to stem the flow of misinformation on its platform. That involved a new tweak to the News Feed ranking algorithm, easier ways for users to report false content, and new ways to prevent scammers from making money from completely fake news. The biggest move was an unprecedented partnership with third-party fact-checking organizations that alerts users if a link on Facebook contains claims that are disputed by at least two fact-checkers.
Facebook said the new fake news reporting feature, measures to disrupt spammers, and third-party fact-checking will be rolled out to German users in the coming weeks.
Germany has quickly become a hotspot of concern regarding fake news as it prepares to hold elections later this year.
A new analysis from BuzzFeed News found that Chancellor Angela Merkel is already being targeted with false and misleading content that is performing well on Facebook.
This week, a Syrian refugee in Germany filed for an injunction against the social network because he says Facebook failed to remove content that accuses him of terrorism. A German lawmaker also recently suggested fining the social network 500,000 euros each time it does not remove fake news quickly.
"When we launched this in the US we said that we would expand the pilot into other countries over time," a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "We’ve listened to our community and begun talks with other global partners, and the readiness of German partners allows us to begin testing in Germany."
The organizations participating in the Facebook fact-checking program must be signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network's (IFCN) Code of Principles. No German organization, including Correctiv, has signed on as of now. The IFCN put a hold on accepting new signatories when the initiative with Facebook was first announced in December. But that is about to change, according to Alexios Mantzarlis, the organization's director.
"[W]e will be reopening the code to new signatories next week, following a consultation among top fact-checkers about how to vet organizations claiming to be fact-checking," he told BuzzFeed News. "So we will soon be able to add signatories to the list again."