When the internet was first created, it was a tool for university researchers to share their work on early computers. And when the internet became widely available to consumers, it was seen as the new gateway to knowledge, the "information superhighway". However, with the advent of social media, user generated content and the ease of website creation, finding accurate information online has become more challenging. As part of their ongoing efforts to mitigate the possible negative effects of social media, Facebook is expanding its fact checking to include photos and videos.

As the old saying goes, "Seeing is believing." Because the viewer gets to see the event in a video or photo, they are more likely to believe the content and the narrative that goes along with it. However, in an age where everyone has access to high-quality video and photo editing tools, it's easy to create fake or doctored content and spread it online. This has made videos and photos the latest front in the war against misinformation. Last week, Facebook announced they were expanding fact-checking for photos and videos to all of its 27 partners in 17 countries around the world. They are also adding new fact-checking partners.

According to a Facebook Product Manager, Antonia Woodford, "Similar to our work for articles, we have built a machine learning model that uses various engagement signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to identify potentially false content. We then send those photos and videos to fact-checkers for their review, or fact-checkers can surface content on their own. Many of our third-party fact-checking partners have expertise evaluating photos and videos and are trained in visual verification techniques, such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata, like when and where the photo or video was taken. Fact-checkers are able to assess the truth or falsity of a photo or video by combining these skills with other journalistic practices, like using research from experts, academics or government agencies.

Preventing the spread of fake news and hoaxes via social media is extremely important for Facebook and other social networks. For example, in July, rumors about child abductions in India (which were spread on Whatsapp through a video-based hoax) led to the deaths of several people, such as a rickshaw driver who was killed by a mob when he stopped for directions. Facebook (who owns Whatsapps) had previously focused on the accuracy of the articles that are linked in posts, but tragic events like these show that videos and photos will need some review too.

Besides using manual fact checkers, Facebook plans to create more technological means to verify content, such as using optical character recognition (OCR) to automatically extract text from photos and compare that text to headlines from fact-checkers' articles. Similarly, they are working on new ways to detect if a photo or video has been manipulated, which can be used to automatically flag potentially deceptive photos and videos to send to fact-checkers for manual review.

Though Facebook has been in the hot seat in recent weeks, the photo and video fact-checking isn't a knee jerk reaction. These systems have been in testing since March and these tests have shown that misinformation in photos and videos usually falls into three categories: (1) Manipulated or Fabricated, (2) Out of Context, and (3) Text or Audio Claim. These are the kinds of false photos and videos that Facebook will hope to further reduce with the expansion of photo and video fact-checking.

To learn more about the new fact-checking systems for videos and photos, Facebook has a video of another product manager discussing the updates on the company blog.

For the most part, this change shouldn't affect any marketers or business owners engaged  in traditional social media marketing. Businesses shouldn't be using fake videos or misleading photos, so if an issue with the new filter arises, it's probably just a mistake that will need to be appealed.

To read more about changes to the Facebook audience, read this article about the surprising findings from a recent Pew Research Center study on Facebook.

Published on: Sep 17, 2018
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