Facebook to launch referendum fake news tool

Facebook plans to introduce fake news alerts on its pages for Irish users ahead of the abortion referendum vote.

Facebook to launch referendum fake news tool

The social networking giant confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it will launch an educational tool to help users spot false news stories.

Advertisements will also be placed in newspapers on how to identify fake stories.

The confirmation comes after the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) last week said it would have no remit over the use of social media during the abortion referendum campaign.

BAI chairman Michael O’Keeffe said that while EU rules would regulate social media on matters of hate speech and privacy, regulations on fairness would be unlikely to apply soon.

Already, both the yes and no campaigns are using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to get their messages across. However, unlike radio, TV or print, where complaints can be overseen by a regulatory body, no rules will apply to the type of content uploaded.

Facebook told the Irish Examiner it will add this newsfeed tool in April in the context of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. This is part of a global plan on content, advertising and initiatives, it says, to tackle fake news.

This follows accusations that social media networks were exploited by foreign entities or fake accounts to influence the Brexit vote and the US presidential election.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten referred social media oversight to the Referendum Commission, which is being set up.

A statement on his behalf said: “The Referendum Commission is the independent body that explains the subject matter of referendum proposals, promotes public awareness of a referendum, and encourages the electorate to vote.”

Its remit includes “to foster and promote and, where appropriate, to facilitate debate or discussion in a manner that is fair to all interests concerned”.

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