Facebook open to more fact checkers in Philippines
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid criticisms from the Philippine government over its choice of third-party fact checkers in the country, social media giant Facebook said it is willing to tap other organizations for the implementation of its initiative against fake news.

Facebook yesterday said it chose Rappler and Vera Files as its third-party fact checkers in the Philippines as they are the only organizations that are signatory to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network (ICFN) Code of Principles.

“At Facebook, we want to work with as many organizations as possible and we welcome other partners in the Philippines to become certified and to join the fact-checking program,” the company said in a statement sent to The STAR.

“Poynter is internationally recognized as the leading convener, teacher and community-builder for fact checkers around the world. In the Philippines, Rappler and Vera Files are the only two who are Poynter certified at this point,” it added.

Launched in 2016, the ICFN Code of Principles seeks to promote excellence in fact checking as an instrument of accountability journalism.

Signatories of the code commit to non-partisanship and fairness; transparency of sources, funding and methodology; and openness to honest corrections.

The network has a three-step vetting process in order for an organization to be a signatory.

On Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque slammed the choice of Rappler and Vera Files as Facebook’s fact checkers in the Philippines.

He said the two organizations are engaged in partisanship, noting their reports critical of the Duterte administration.

But according to Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas, their organization has been vetted by the IFCN as non-partisan and fair in conducting its fact checks.

Meanwhile, Rappler urged its readers to take part in the initiative to weed out lies on the social media platform.

“This is not just about news groups. This is about making the first needed step in a problematic online environment that we are all trying to navigate and make better,” it said in an open letter.

“It’s a responsibility, not a privilege. We accepted it because, along with you, we’ve seen how lies have ripped us apart as a society, fomenting hate and anger,” it added.

Contrary to concerns raised by some personalities, Rappler said the initiative will encourage and not stifle free speech.

“Because the reality is, power groups are using free speech on Facebook to stifle free speech, as shown in various cases here and in neighboring countries,” it said.

“This is not about Rappler. This is about an action a long time coming – for the tech giant to put in place mechanisms that would help weed out the unfiltered lies that we’ve been getting on our social feeds for sometime now,” it added.

Under the initiative, fact checkers will be tasked to review news stories flagged by users as possibly containing false information.

Stories that have been rated false by a fact checker will be placed lower in the news feed, significantly reducing the chances of a user seeing it.

Facebook said pages that repeatedly share false news will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.

Users and page administrators will also be informed if they shared stories that are rated as false.

The social media company has also started blocking some Philippine fake news websites from being shared in the online platform.

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