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Anti-Fake News Drive Gains Pace Ahead of French Elections

The battle against fake news continues in France, where AFP has become the latest media outlet to sign up to the CrossCheck initiative and a Facebook effort to filter out fallacious articles ahead of the presidential elections there.

CrossCheck is a journalism verification project launched by the First Draft Network and Google News Lab, designed to ensure “hoaxes, rumors and false claims are swiftly debunked.”

Seventeen news rooms across France will work to verify content, with the public encouraged to send in links to disputed sites and social content.

“As with journalists’ safety, media do not need to compete when it comes to fighting disinformation and manipulation. Between post-truth and conspiracies, the core values of our profession are under attack and we have to fight back together,” argued Michèle Léridon, AFP’s news director.

Facebook is backing CrossCheck, but it has also launched a separate initiative in collaboration with AFP and seven other French news organizations with the same end goal.

Once again, users are encouraged to flag stories they think may be fake, and if two news partners agree, they will be tagged on the social network as disputed.

The news follows new Facebook efforts announced at the end of January to more accurately classify and rank authentic content, using new “universal signals.” However, that effort merely promotes authentic content, rather than flagging possible hoax stories.

The issue has become a hot topic in France ahead of the presidential elections, given the fake news which some commentators say helped Donald Trump to victory in November and may have been spread as part of a Kremlin-backed misinformation campaign to influence the result.

Syrian refugee Anas Modamani reportedly took Facebook to court after a 2015 selfie he snapped with German chancellor Angela Merkel in the Berlin shelter in which he was living was subsequently doctored and adopted by fake news promoters.

He’s claiming that Facebook has failed to prevent the spread of those doctored images – something his lawyers say is technically pretty easy for the social network to do.

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