Here’s a fact: It’s not just Facebook that needs to stop misinformation

UK charity Full Fact’s new report says that Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checking programme doesn’t go far enough. In a world of half truths and full blown lies, it’s time for comms people to double down on the truth, underline our ethical credentials and lead the way

The UK’s independent factchecking charity Full Fact has published its first report on Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checking programme.

Full Fact began working with Facebook in January 2019 to verify images, videos and articles in a bid to slow the spread of misinformation in people’s feeds.

The social network has been working with independent factcheckers since 2016 but the initiative has only just been introduced in Britain.

Six months in and Full Fact reports that while there is clear social value to the work, further programme development is required.

Reporting openly to underline its “transparency, openness and impartiality”, the charity calls on Facebook to share more data with fact checkers to better evaluate impact; to develop its tools to better identify potentially harmful false content; and for the programme to be expanded to other platforms.

You can read the charity’s ten recommendations for Facebook here (opens as a pdf). 

Taking ownership of ethical communication

In this time of fake news and propaganda the question of ethical communication has never been more important.

While the spread of misinformation requires a collective response from social networks, tech companies and the media - with further discussion needed around regulation - professional communicators and the brands they act for are nevertheless well placed to influence within their own spheres.

It’s time the public relations profession owned ethical communications.

As the International Association of Business Communicators puts it:

As a professional communicator, you have the potential to influence economies and affect lives. This power carries with it significant responsibilities.

Its Code of Ethics serves as a guide to making consistent, responsible, ethical and legal choices and is worth a read.

Making our voices heard 

 

Ensuring the veracity of everything we write and share has never been more crucial, especially where we have access to and influence over large groups of people.

The definition of truth by Merriam-Webster is “being in accord with fact or reality.” Public relations professionals help shape public narratives so accuracy is a duty of care.

Equally important is the need for individuals and organisations to call out misinformation and rebut lies as soon as they see them.

In light of Boris Johnson’s broken promises as Mayor of London, Channel Four’s FactCheck project has committed to examining every statement by the new Prime Minister until the UK leaves the EU.

Society more widely would benefit from more of this critical thinking, as well as greater scrutiny and challenge. If the PR community was to provide it, it would give validity to our work within the business community, as well as potentially provide a mandate.

As an opportunity, ethical communication is ours for the taking. Whether anyone is doing anything about it is a different story.

Image taken from www.skeptical-science.com.