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Some Facebook fact-checkers aren't sure if their efforts are working

One former fact-checker told The Guardian that the tech firm used people in her position for "crisis PR." Facebook has pushed back against the report.

FACEBOOK logo seen displayed on smart phone
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What's the status of Facebook's relationship with journalists paid to fact-check news on the world's largest social network?

It's complicated.

Some fact-checkers told The Guardian they've lost trust in the platform in the wake of Facebook's scandals and aren't sure if their efforts are working, says a Thursday report on the news site. Brooke Binkowski, the former managing editor of Snopes, a fact-checking site that partnered with Facebook, accused the social network of using fact-checkers for crisis PR.

"They're not taking anything seriously," she told The Guardian. "They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck ... They clearly don't care."

Facebook said Thursday that it's been committed to fighting misinformation for years and that the former fact-checker quoted in The Guardian's story hasn't been involved in the program for six months. 

"We value our ongoing partnerships and the work that these journalists do, and we're planning to expand the program to even more countries in 2019," Meredith Carden, Facebook's head of News Integrity Partnerships, said in a blog post. The social media company, which has 35 fact-checking partners in 24 countries, said flagging a post as false reduced future views of the content by 80 percent on average.

Since the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook has been trying to prove that it's doing what it needs to in order to combat misinformation on the site and thwart election meddling from Russia, Iran and other countries. 

But Facebook's recent scandals are making journalists think twice about whether they can trust the social network to combat fake news, The Guardian reported. 

In November, The New York Times said Definers Public Affairs, a PR firm hired by Facebook, tried to discredit the social network's critics by linking them to liberal billionaire George Soros. Soros has been the target of anti-Semitic and far-right conspiracy theories. Some critics say that by pointing the finger at alleged behind-the-scenes activity by Soros, Facebook, through Definers, played on the conspiracy theories, intentionally or not. 

The Guardian, which also quoted anonymous fact-checkers, reported that some journalists are pushing to end their fact-checking partnership with the social network.

"Why should we trust Facebook when it's pushing the same rumors that its own fact-checkers are calling fake news?" a current Facebook fact-checker told The Guardian. "It's worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform, knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him."

This isn't the first time concerns have been raised about Facebook's fact-checking efforts. In April, a report by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism suggested there were tensions between fact-checkers and the social network.

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