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On Tuesday, at The Atlantic Festival in Washington DC, Nick Clegg, communications VP at  Facebook outlined the measures that Facebook is taking to prevent the involvement of the third-party fact-checkers in elections. 

Facebook relies on third-party fact-checkers for reducing the spread of fake news and misinformation. The company has now decided to exempt the politicians’ speech from their third-party fact-checking program as they don’t want to intervene in any political speech coming from politicians. 

Clegg said in his speech, “At Facebook, our role is to make sure there is a level playing field, not to be a political participant ourselves.”

The company will no longer send any organic content or ads coming from the politicians to their third-party fact-checking partners for review. In case a politician shares previously debunked content then Facebook will demote that content.

How do these third-party fact-checkers handle fake news?

The third-party fact-checkers review the posts and stories and identify the fake news by looking into the feedback coming from Facebook users. After checking the facts, they rate the accuracy of the content. In case fact-checker rates the content as false, the content will get demoted and will appear lower in News Feed. This also reduces the number of people who can view this content.

The third-party fact-checkers restrict the pages and websites that repeatedly share false news and reduce their distribution on the platform. They will be restricted by the third-party fact-checkers from monetising and advertising and registering as a news Page.

As per the newsworthiness exemption, Facebook does not ban content even if violates its guidelines 

Since 2016, Facebook had a newsworthiness exemption which means if a user makes a statement or shares a post that goes against community standards, Facebook will still allow it on their platform if it doesn’t increase the risk of harm. 

Clegg announced that from now on, the speech from politicians will be considered as newsworthy content. 

Clegg’s speech reads, “Today, I announced that from now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard. However, in keeping with the principle that we apply different standards to content for which we receive payment, this will not apply to ads – if someone chooses to post an ad on Facebook, they must still fall within our Community Standards and our advertising policies.”

How is the newsworthiness determined?

While determining the newsworthiness, the public’s interest in the value of speech is evaluated against the risk of harm. While balancing these interests, the company takes a number of factors into consideration which includes country-specific circumstances such as elections or war scenario. 

He further added, “In evaluating the risk of harm, we will consider the severity of the harm. Content that has the potential to incite violence, for example, may pose a safety risk that outweighs the public interest value. Each of these evaluations will be holistic and comprehensive in nature, and will account for international human rights standards.”

Facebook makes it clear that they are just a platform for content 

While explaining their stand, Clegg said, “At Facebook, our role is to make sure there is a level playing field, not to be a political participant ourselves. To use tennis as an analogy, our job is to make sure the court is ready – the surface is flat, the lines painted, the net at the correct height. But we don’t pick up a racket and start playing. How the players play the game is up to them, not us.”

So, in this case, if the politicians are using nasty comments on the platform, the platform won’t be responsible or it, they can try to curb it to a limit by demoting the content in case it is inappropriate. The politicians have been given a platform to use it and it is up to them how they use it. According to Clegg, it is not possible for the platform to become a referee, each time a politician posts nasty comments and posts a fake claim. 

Clegg added, “Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say? I don’t believe it would be. In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.”

Facebook clarifies that it is not their job to intervene when the politicians speak and they won’t allow interference from third-party fact-checkers for reviewing them.

How are YouTube and Twitter planning to deal with political speech?

Yesterday, Susan Wojcicki, CEO at YouTube said that they won’t ban politicians from using YouTube even if their content goes against company’s guidelines, Politico reports.

Wojcicki talked about how YouTube approach political figures and suggested that whatever they post is important for people to be aware of. 

Wojcicki said at The Atlantic Festival, “When you have a political officer that is making information this is really important for their constituents to see, or for other global leaders to see, that is content that we would leave up because we think it’s important for other people to see.” 

On the contrast, Twitter won’t take down the content by politicians or political figures because it’s of public interest, but the content that goes against the guidelines of the platform will be labeled as ‘rule-breaking’. The platform will de-prioritize the labeled tweets in the company’s algorithms and search bar so that they aren’t visible to a larger audience. 

To know more about this news, check out Facebook’s post.

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