KARACHI: Facebook claims it has ramped up its efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation or “fake news”.

The term “fake news” went mainstream during the 2016 US presidential campaign when hundreds of websites and social media accounts published false or biased stories.

In order to prevent abuse, and preserve the integrity of the July 25 elections in Pakistan, Facebook says, it is working to fight the spread of false news on its platform through a combination of technology and human review.

“We have partnered with AFP to launch a third-party fact-checking in Pakistan,” Facebook country representative, Sarim Aziz, told The Express Tribune in an email interview. He added that AFP is certified by Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network, and fact-checkers are based in the news agency’s Islamabad office.

Facebook says it uses signals, including feedback from people on the platform, and clickbait sensationalist headlines to predict false stories. “When fact-checkers rate a story as false, we significantly reduce it distribution in News Feed – dropping future views on average by more than 80%,” says Aziz.

AFP’s Bureau Chief in Pakistan, Amelie Herenstein, confirmed that the news agency has a fact-checking partnership with Facebook “which has recently been extended to Pakistan”.

According to a statement, AFP journalists fact-check potentially false content and provide the necessary context where it is lacking. “Under the agreement, AFP has full independence in choosing which content to verify. Links to its fact checks appear alongside original posts on Facebook,” it says.

Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news are also penalised i.e. a reduction in their content distribution and monetisation through advertising, as well as partial and complete suspension, and removal.

Fake accounts can be major distributors of harmful and misleading content, and Facebook claims to have removed nearly six million such accounts globally in the first quarter of 2018.

Various accounts and pages of the Milli Muslim League, a political faction of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa were recently disabled. After it was denied registration by the ECP, Saeed announced that around 200 candidates of his party would contest the polls under the banner of Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek.

Besides “fake news”, the social media platform is working with the Election Commission of Pakistan, “to encourage civic participation and maintain the integrity of the election process”.

In a statement, Facebook says it has helped educate ECP officials on how the platform works in order to “increase transparency, improving security and promoting civic engagement”.

ECP spokesperson Nadeem Qasim affirmed there was an arrangement between the election oversight body and Facebook to increase voter awareness. This includes a reminder about the ECP’s 8300 Voter SMS service to find out about one’s vote record and polling station.

Qasim, however, was unaware of any guidelines or agreement to identify and remove fake pages of different political parties.