Facebook is partnering with the news agency Reuters to fact-check viral videos, photos, and other user content

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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REUTERS/Erin Scott
  • Facebook is paying the global news agency Reuters to carry out fact-checking on its behalf, Reuters announced Wednesday.
  • Reuters says the program will see its fact-checkers verify some user-generated photos, videos, headlines and other English- and Spanish-language content in the US “in the run-up to the US election and beyond.”
  • Facebook has launched multiple fact-checking initiatives over the past few years, though it’s also faced fierce criticism – from politicians and even its own employees – for refusing to fact-check political ads.
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Facebook is partnering with the news agency Reuters to carry out fact-checking on its behalf, adding a high-profile name to its global roster of fact-checkers.

Reuters says the program, which it announced Wednesday, will see its fact-checkers verify the authenticity of user-generated photos, videos, headlines, and other English- and Spanish-language content in the US “in the run-up to the US election and beyond.” Its findings will be published on a Reuters blog, which as of Wednesday showed examples of fact-checking by the news agency dating back to February 2019.

The blog’s most recent post, from January 26, debunks a video purporting to show the helicopter crash in which the basketball star Kobe Bryant was killed.

“It’s a responsibility for news organizations and platforms to halt the spread of false news,” Reuters’ director of global partnerships, Jess April, said in a statement published Wednesday.

Facebook has launched several fact-checking initiatives over the past few years, partnering with multiple third-party fact-checkers around the world.

Facebook’s Keren Goldshlager said expanding the fact-checking program was “an important part of our work to fight misinformation,” adding: “We are thrilled that Reuters is joining our US partnership, and know we’ll benefit deeply from their expertise in visual verification and user-generated content.”

The company’s fact-checkers also include Full Fact in the UK and Agence France-Presse in Malaysia. Facebook says its third-party fact-checkers are certified by the impartial International Fact-Checking Network.

Yet despite all this, Facebook has persisted in refusing to fact-check political ads published on its platform.

This stance has provoked high-profile criticism from across the political spectrum.

One particularly controversial case involved a campaign ad for President Donald Trump that contained falsehoods about the Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, which Facebook refused to remove.

Critics of Facebook’s policy are said to include the company’s own employees.

According to an internal letter obtained by The New York Times in October, 250 Facebook employees petitioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg to change the company’s policy on fact-checking political advertising.

The employees reportedly claimed the policy “allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.”

Prominent politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York subsequently spoke out in support of the petition, while the author Stephen King quit the platform last week over the policy.