Top internet firms launch initiative to curb spread of false information in France

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Giant Internet firms Facebook and Google joined forces with news organizations on Monday to launch new fact-checking tools designed to root out “fake news” stories in France ahead of the country’s presidential election.

Social networks and news aggregators came under fire during the U.S. presidential vote when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports.

Facebook said it would work with eight French news organizations, including news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), news channel BFM TV, and newspapers L’Express and Le Monde to minimize the risk that false news appeared on its platform.

Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, has 24 million users in France, more than a third of the country’s population. It will rely on users to flag fake news on its network so that the articles can then by fact-checked by its partner organizations.

Any news report deemed to be fake by two of its partners would then be tagged with an icon to show that the content is contested, Facebook said.

Facebook is also supporting a separate initiative launched by Google dubbed “CrossCheck” which calls on users to submit links to contested content to a dedicated website so that it can be investigated.

Seventeen French newsrooms have joined the project, including AFP and the French public national television broadcaster.

Facebook is also taking steps against fake news in Germany, where government officials have expressed concerns that false stories and hate speech online could influence a federal election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

In the United States, Facebook has said users would in future find it easier to flag fake articles as a hoax, and added that it will work with organizations such as fact-checking website Snopes, ABC News and the Associated Press to check the authenticity of stories.

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