Facebook’s Journalism Project has announced a new Accelerator Challenge for fact-checking partners, which will see fourteen of the platform’s fact-checking providers come together to participate in a 10-week training program,  designed to help improve collaboration, and develop better fact-checking approaches.

As explained by Facebook:

“The Accelerator Challenge will bring fact-checking organizations together to innovate, learn from experts and one another, and collaborate on new strategies to improve their business both on and off Facebook.”

Misinformation, and stopping the spread of misleading content, has become a key focus for social platforms of late, particularly in light of the COVID vaccine roll-out, and increased resistance to the push due to questions about the vaccine’s development.

Indeed, according to reports, millions of Americans are holding off on getting the vaccine, or refusing to get it outright, due to concern around its seemingly rushed development, and the potential for side effects as a result. That hesitancy has been identified as a key element in the resurgence of the virus in many regions, with the more infectious Delta variant now sparking renewed lockdowns and mitigation efforts.

Independent health authorities around the world have universally approved COVID vaccines for use, but even so, misinformation on the web continues to delay optimal take-up, which could see the pandemic drag on for much longer than expected.

That makes this new fact-checking education and coordination initiative increasingly important, while Facebook is also exploring additional measures to police other types of false reports, and stop people using its platforms to amplify misleading and dangerous movements.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Facebook is also in the process of establishing a new commission to advise it on global election-related matters.

As per NYT:

“The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, though the effort is preliminary and could still fall apart.”

That aligns with Facebook’s broader push to refer to experts for guidance on content moderation decisions, which would ensure that it doesn’t get the blame for censoring discussion, while also enabling it to tap into more insight to guide its process.

The new fact-checking Accelerator Challenge is another element, which, ideally, will help Facebook establish clearer parameters around content removals, and lock in clearer rules on what is and is not allowed.

Facebook’s Fact-Checking Accelerator program will begin in early October 2021. 

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