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Facebook to begin labeling fake news for German users

By
Allen Cone
Facebook plans to attach warning labels to fake stories seen by German users of the website. File Photo by Jayson Photography/Shutterstock
Facebook plans to attach warning labels to fake stories seen by German users of the website. File Photo by Jayson Photography/Shutterstock

MENLO PARK, Calif., Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Facebook is planning to flag fake news for German users before their election.

The social media giant is rolling out over the next few weeks its fake news filtering tools for the first time outside the United States. Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in a parliamentary election in September.

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German users will be able to report a story as fake and Correctiv, a third-party fact checker, will check it out. If the fact checker discovers it is fake, the story will be flagged as "disputed" with an explanation. People will receive a warning if they decide to share it and it will not show up in the news feed.

"When we launched this in the U.S. we said that we would expand the pilot into other countries over time," a Facebook spokesman told CNN. "We've listened to our community and begun talks with other global partners, and the readiness of German partners allows us to begin testing in Germany. We expect to announce efforts in additional countries soon."

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Last month, Germany's government announced it was planning a law to impose fines of up to $469,000 on Facebook for distributing fake news. Merkel warned that online attacks and misinformation coming from Russia could "play a role in the election campaign" -- like U.S. officials alleged in their 2016 election.

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In November, German prosecutors said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and three other executives are being investigated over allegations they broke national hate speech laws by failing to remove offensive posts.

Heiko Maas, Germany's justice minister said in an interview Sunday with Welt Am Sonntag that fake news is a "danger to our culture of debate." In extreme cases, those responsible could face up to five years in jail.

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"A story was propagated by the Russian press and put into the German press that a young ethnic Russian girl living in Germany named Lise, as the story went, was disappeared, kidnapped and raped by migrants brought in by Merkel," Hannah Thoburn, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the Financial Times. "It was not true, Lise ran away from home to a friend's place and nothing bad happened."

The fact-checkers have signed on to Poynter's International Fact Checking Code of Principles.

"We believe nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism; conversely, unsourced or biased fact-checking can increase distrust in the media and experts while polluting public understanding," the network wrote.

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