Facebook will begin rolling out its fake news filter in Germany, the Financial Times reports, where lawmakers have expressed growing concern over the spread of fabricated news stories and Russian interference ahead of national elections later this year. The social network will begin fact-checking and flagging fake news for users in Germany over the coming weeks, according to the FT. The tools were first launched in the US last month, as part of a partnership with independent fact-checking organizations.
German politicians have warned of the effect that fake news could have on federal elections slated for this fall, following a spate of fabricated articles and hoaxes during the US presidential election. Lawmakers have considered imposing fines on Facebook and other social media companies that allow fake news to spread, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of Russian interference through propaganda or cyberattacks. It was reported last week that the German government has opened an investigation into the spread of fake news, after Breitbart published a false story claiming that a mob set fire to a church on New Year’s Eve.
Under Facebook’s fact-checking system, stories reported as fake by users will be sent to Correctiv, a nonprofit news organization based in Berlin. If an item is deemed false, it will be marked as “disputed,” along with a justification for the label, and the site will warn users before they share it. Disputed items will also show up lower in Facebook’s algorithmically determined News Feed.
A Facebook spokesperson tells the FT that the company is looking for other media partners in Germany, and that it plans to launch its fact-checking tools in other countries, as well. “Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next,” the spokesperson told the newspaper.
German authorities have urged Facebook and other tech companies to aggressively police both fake news and hate speech. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said last year that Facebook should be regulated as a media company in Germany, which would make it legally responsible for any content it publishes. The government has reportedly considered setting up a bureau that would track and combat fake news, as the Czech Republic has done, though there are concerns over authorities being seen as interfering with the media ahead of elections.
In an interview with the German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag this week, Maas said that fake news represents a “danger to our culture of debate,” and that social media companies “have a duty” to rein it in.
“It can’t be in Facebook’s interest that its platform is misused in order to spread lies and hate campaigns,” Maas told the newspaper. “Criminal content should be deleted immediately once it has been reported. And it must be easier for users to report fake news.”