Agence France-Presse has said it is extending its fact-checking deal with Facebook to counter fake news in Arabic. As per the new contract, AFP, one of the world's big three news agencies, will extend its worldwide network of fact-checkers -- which is already up and running across 16 countries in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The Arabic fact-checking teams based in Beirut will work with AFP staff covering North Africa and the Middle East, where AFP is the leading international news agency in Arabic.
They will verify and debunk fake news being spread online, with their articles published on AFP's Fact Check blog and then flagged up by Facebook to its users. According to AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd, the ongoing yellow vests protests in France had shown once again how disinformation can be shared to millions through Facebook groups, "some of whom have a greater reach than some traditional media".
"Information verification is at the heart of AFP's mission and its expertise and is something that our clients benefit from daily," he said further. Survey after survey shows that the confidence in news has never been as low as it is today, Chetwynd said. "To contend with fake news we have to find new ways of presenting news...We cannot just report what someone important has said but we have to ask, 'Is that correct?' We want to create a culture of fact checking" to counter the climate of distrust fostered by fake news, he added.
Chetwynd insisted that the agency is fully independent in what posts it chooses to investigate, not just the Facebook posts flagged by the platform. Nashwa Aly, its head of policy for the Middle East and North Africa, said they "recognise the implications of false news on Facebook and we are committed to doing a better job to fight it. "This is a responsibility that we take very seriously," she said and added that more than 181 million people use the network across the region every month.