1 May 2017

Facebook cracks down on 'fake news' ahead of NZ election

8:37 am on 1 May 2017

Facebook is briefing political parties and media in New Zealand ahead of the election as part of its efforts to crack down on "fake news".

A file photo of the Facebook logo on a desktop computer

Photo: 123RF

The social networking website released a report late last week which acknowledged it had been used by governments and other agents seeking to manipulate public opinion.

It outlined efforts to crack down on false accounts which create and spread misinformation.

Before the report's release, Facebook's director of policy for New Zealand, Mia Garlick, spoke to RNZ about what it had planned here.

Facebook Head of Policy for Australia and New Zealand Mia Garlick

Mia Garlick said Facebook had begun engaging with politicians and media organisation in the lead-up to the election. Photo: SUPPLIED

She would not comment on whether "fake news" was a specific problem in New Zealand, saying she would "leave that to the experts".

But she said New Zealanders had many trustworthy news sources and the country's political eco-system was "operating at best practice".

"I think it's going to be a really healthy and vibrant debate in the lead-up to the election."

Facebook had begun engaging with politicians and media organisations to help them understand the tools available to them, she said.

"Through our outreach ... we can make sure that people understand and can get lots of exposure to verified content."

Facebook's verification was one example, she said.

Public figures, media companies and brands can apply to have a "blue tick" put beside their name, confirming them as an authentic account.

Ms Garlick said the company had also taken measures to "automatically detect and reduce the distribution of false news stories".

In the United States and across Europe, Facebook has begun rolling out a feature that assigns a "disputed" tag on questionable news stories.

It was working with fact-checking organisations and media outlets to review stories that had been flagged by users.

Ms Garlick said that was still in a trial phase and it was too early to reveal whether Facebook had anything similar planned here.

New Zealanders could already report questionable content by clicking on the small arrow on the top right corner of links.

Facebook's recent crackdown on fake news is a stark change in position from November last year.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg then rejected the notion that fake stories on Facebook could have influenced the US presidential election as a "pretty crazy idea".

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