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Timothy B. Lee – Fact-checking groups are about to become Facebook’s fake news cops. That won’t be easy.

In the wake of the 2016 election, Facebook had a problem. A lot of people thought the site had done too little to combat fake news. At the same time, Facebook was desperate to maintain its reputation as a politically innocuous technology company. If it started directly declaring certain news stories fake, it would inevitably be drawn into emotionally charged political fights, damaging its credibility with partisans in the process.

So instead of trying to identify fake news itself, Facebook is outsourcing the work to third parties. Initially, five fact-checking organizations — Snopes, PolitiFact, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and the Associated Press — will be asked to review questionable articles and render a verdict about their veracity. If an article is rated false by these organizations, it will be marked as “disputed” and be pushed lower in a user’s newsfeed.

That puts some distance between Facebook and the politically charged question of what counts as fake news. But it’s not clear if this will be sufficient to mollify critics — predominantly on the right — who object to the very concept of trying to weed fake news out of the newsfeed.

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