The Facebook Fact-Checking Program In Armenia: What You Should Know

Since June 1, 2021, Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program has been operating in Armenia. The program helps to counteract the misinformation spread on Facebook and Instagram.

The program is implemented by FactCheck Georgia in cooperation with the Media Initiatives Center.

The Media Initiatives Center has presented and explained the program to Facebook users and the media many times during the implementation of the program. This article is yet another in the genre of explanatory journalism, where we present answers to important questions about the program: How does it work? What are the ratings? Why does Facebook apply restrictions? How can the restrictions be removed?

What is the Facebook fact-checking program?

Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program was launched in 2016. The goal of the program is to counteract viral (widespread or likely to spread) misinformation and verifiably false claims. Especially in cases where misinformation can be misleading or damaging.

Facebook now works with more than 80 fact-checking organizations around the world in 60 languages. One of the important features of the program is that it does not fact-check the speech of politicians, regardless of whether they are part of the government or the opposition.

Who is this program aimed at?

This program is primarily aimed at the audience. It aims to create a culture of information consumption where the rules of media hygiene are more strictly observed. In the interests of the audience, Facebook offers its verification mechanisms and labels.

Who does the checking?

As part of the fact-checking program, Facebook works with organizations that are members of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). There are no member organizations of that network from Armenia yet (but there are several fact-checking media outlets: Media.am, Fip.am, Infocheck.am).

To become a member of the IFCN organizations must undergo a certification process and adhere to the IFCN code of principles, which are:

  • Nonpartisanship and fairness,
  • Transparency of sources,
  • Transparency of funding and organization,
  • Transparency of fact-checking methodology,
  • A policy of open and honest corrections. 

Why now?

Facebook prioritizes the implementation of the fact-checking program where elections are planned in the near future, and misinformation can contain real risks. That is why in the summer of 2021 the launch of the fact-checking program in Armenia, where snap parliamentary elections were expected, was important.

How does this program work in Armenia?

To check the content of Facebook in Armenia, the FactCheck Georgia website, which is a member of the IFCN, cooperates with the fact-checking team of the Media Initiatives Center’s media.am website.

This is a joint program of FactCheck Georgia and the Media Initiatives Center, which was launched on June 1 to check the misinformation spread on Facebook and Instagram during the pre-election and post-election period.

Sophie Ayers, Facebook’s Strategic Partnership Development Manager, said that together with Media Initiatives Center (MIC), a local partner in Armenia, their vital work will help them to reduce the spread of Armenian-language misinformation on their platforms.

The team of the media.am, Media Initiatives Center website, together with the Georgian colleagues, segregates and checks the materials spread on the Armenian segments of Facebook and Instagram. An article is prepared on each of the verified pieces of information, which explains in detail what was checked and how. The articles can be read on the websites Media.am and Factcheck.ge.

How are publications selected to be checked?

Media.am has a small fact-checking team consisting of information monitoring specialists, fact-checking journalists and editors.

The Media.am monitoring specialists follow the content spread on Facebook on a daily basis. Our main tool here is Crowdtangle. This tool is free but is only available to organizations selected by Facebook according to certain criteria. It is a monitoring tool that helps to see, follow and analyze the publications that are being widely spread on social media, both on pages and in groups.

The list of monitored pages in Crowdtangle includes platforms with a wide audience (preference is given to pages with a large number of followers), as well as platforms that have not previously avoided spreading misleading or fake content.

According to Facebook, Facebook and Instagram posts that are subject to scrutiny include advertisements, articles, pictures, videos and text posts. Any publication subject to fact-checking is selected for editorial review and approved by IFCN member, FactCheck Georgia.

The most important principle for selecting publications is verifiability. That is, if the publication cannot be verified by fact-checking methods, then we can not touch upon it, even if there is a reasonable suspicion that it may contain misinformation. For example, during the days of the snap elections to the National Assembly, the information had regularly appeared in the press that this or that political force was distributing electoral bribes. However, verifying this information requires a law enforcement investigation or a journalistic investigation, which is a separate genre of journalism and differs from fact-checking.

What is a rating?

After finding material containing possible misinformation, it is given a rating based on the criteria set by Facebook. Facebook has six rating options.

The verified information is given a label with which Facebook informs the audience that the given information is of suspicious content.

Facebook imposes restrictions on labeled pages or users who spread misinformation, which may result in reduced visibility, restrictions on advertising and monetization, and restrictions on the creation of new pages. If the Facebook platform does not continue to spread misinformation, then over time the restrictions applied to it will be removed by Facebook. Read more about Facebook restrictions here.

What to do when the page has received a label?

It is possible to appeal the label of any publication and remove the Facebook restrictions. You can correct the misinformation or appeal for the review to be removed. Requests for correction or appeal should be sent to [email protected] within 7 days of receiving notice of the rating.

Facebook has prepared a detailed guide for how to dispute a rating.

✅ You can request a review of the rating if you have corrected the rated content and clearly state that a correction was made directly on the Facebook post. If the article contains a URL link, the correction should also be on the website (including in the title). If the correction is done properly, Facebook will remove the label from the post and lift the restrictions.

✅ You can also appeal the rating by clearly stating why you think the rating was wrong. In each case, the complainant will be notified of the acceptance or rejection of the complaint.

The Facebook template can be used when preparing correction and appeal applications.

❌ It is important to remember that the post labeled by Facebook should not be deleted, as in that case, the fact-checking organization will not be able to review the rating.

Why are fact-checkers targeted on Facebook?

As a result of the work of fact-checking journalists, Facebook imposes restrictions on pages that spread misinformation. That is why fact-checking organizations are often targeted and become victims of threats or information campaigns.

In July 2021, the IFCN announced that it had set up a working group to address the issue of harassment against fact-checking organizations and journalists.

Why is this program important?

Misinformation is widespread in Armenia. Often it can be harmful by endangering public health, targeting vulnerable groups in society, misleading the public before important social or political events, and so on.

Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program provides journalists with effective mechanisms to counter misinformation on Armenia’s most widely used social network (this program only checks for the information posted on Facebook and Instagram).

In June, the Media Initiatives Center website Media.am and the FactCheck Georgia website published about 30 fact-checking articles, as a result of which Facebook labeled more than 500 posts containing misinformation.

The resources of the Media Initiatives Center and the media.am team are limited and not all misinformation is found or verified. That is why cooperation with the audience is important. The fact-checking team encourages the public to contact us via email on the “Contact Us” page on the media.am website or through our Facebook page in the case of any suspicious information that has not yet received a response.

Karine Ghazaryan

Gegham Vardanyan

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