Facebook looks set to lose 70 per cent of the fact checkers who verify whether the things you see on its platform are true or not.
Facebook looks set to lose 70 per cent of the fact checkers who verify whether the things you see on its platform are true or not.

How will Facebook get its facts straight?

The world's biggest social media platform has less than 120 days to confirm how it will get its facts straight as it looks set to lose the majority of its Australian fact checkers by the end of June.

With the news that the Australian Associated Press (AAP) - an agency that provides much of the news content you consume in this country even if you don't realise it - will close its newswire service with widespread job losses at the end of June, Facebook looks set to lose the majority of its local fact checking team as well.

Facebook partners with news organisations around the world to check the veracity of content posted on its platforms in an attempt to combat misinformation.

 

The social media company, worth hundreds of billions of dollars more than the agencies it partners with, doesn't employ any fact checkers of its own, but it does pay some of the partners for their trouble.

In Australia, it partners with two agencies: the AAP whose days are now numbered, and the Agence France-Presse.

According to Buzzfeed News, there are a total of seven journalists working to verify content posted by Australia's 17 million users.

Five of them are reportedly employed by AAP.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has accused the government of failing to "effectively deal with the damage being inflicted on news media by digital content aggregators, search engines and social media".

"Google and Facebook are riding the coat-tails of news outlets, using the outlet's news stories to lure away their audiences and advertisers which leads to the platforms also taking from the revenue streams that those news outlets sorely need," MEAA federal president Marcus Strom said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

"This erosion of media revenues through the proliferation of sharing of content for free by the giant digital platforms is a major cause of why AAP is losing subscriber revenue," he added.

AAP Editor in chief Tony Gillies in his office before the AAP closure announcement on Tuesday. Picture: AAP Image/Dylan Coker
AAP Editor in chief Tony Gillies in his office before the AAP closure announcement on Tuesday. Picture: AAP Image/Dylan Coker

According to a wire story an AAP journalist had to write about the decision that will see them out of a job, AAP CEO Bruce Davidson also laid some of the blame at the feet of digital platforms, and said "the business is no longer viable in the face of increasing free online content".

AAP chairman Campbell Reid said facts will suffer with the agency gone.

"It is a great loss that professional and researched information provided by AAP is being substituted with the un-researched and often inaccurate information that masquerades as real news on the digital platforms," Mr Reid said.

Mr Reid is also an executive at News Corp, publisher of news.com.au.

AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies said he's worried about the future of Australian news.

"We have had a place like no other in journalism. We exist for the public's interest and I now fear for the void left by the absence of AAP's strong, well-considered voice," Mr Gillies said.

A Facebook spokesperson said "We will continue to work with AAP on their fact-checking operations, with the support of our long term partner, Agence France-Presse (AFP)".

AAP's fact checking department has been contacted for comment.

- with wires


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