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Local Facebook fact-checkers leading the resistance in an era of fake news

I sat down with Angela Mckenzie of CTV news to discuss how fake news spreads, how to spot it, and what to do about it.

CTV Montreal
Published Saturday, October 13, 2018 9:56PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 13, 2018 9:57PM EDT
With so many people getting their news from social media sites, it’s become increasingly difficult to sort out truth from fiction.

Fact-checkers are hard at work behind the scenes trying to stop the spread of fake news – in fact, Facebook’s only Canadian fact-checker is based in Montreal.

“It’s kind of like a game, actually,” explained Louis Baudoin-Laarman, a fact-checker for Agence France-Presse. “For every information that you find out there, you have to find its source first.”

Social media sites face increasing pressure to prevent fake news from gaining traction, so Facebook has hired regional fact-checkers.

When Canadians report fake news on Facebook, Baudoin-Laarman investigates. He looks at posts with more than 1000 shares and attempts to trace them back to their sources.

Some fake news keeps circulating for years – like one report, for example, falsely claiming refugees in Canada are given more money than seniors.

So what types of fake news do fact-checkers encounter the most?

Political news, often about immigration or the current government, fake science touting miracle cures or conspiracy theories, according to Baudoin-Laarman.

“Then you just have clickbait stuff, outrageous headlines, often around animals or natural occurrences,” he added.

Facebook recently removed more than 800 accounts and pages for spreading fake news.

Terry Cutler, a cybersecurity expert, says Facebook makes it easy to target specific individuals with misinformation.

“The whole purpose of these fake accounts is to help spread propaganda and their goal is to help them monetize these interactions so every time someone clicks on a link that goes to a website, they get paid for it,” Cutler explained.

Facebook admitted earlier this year its data may have been misused by Cambridge Analytica to target American voters with misinformation.

Beaudouin-Laarman says today, false information can spread far and wide online.

“And that’s dangerous because potentially the whole of Canada could end up believing one thing that’s not actually true and that could alter their opinion, make them think or vote a certain way,” he explained.

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