RMIT FactLab has partnered with Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, to fight the spread of misinformation through independent third-party fact-checking.
RMIT FactLab is a research hub at RMIT University dedicated to debunking misinformation online and developing critical awareness about its origins and spread. The hub also conducts original research into the digital news ecosystem.
Its partnership with Meta, will make it the third Australian-based organisation, alongside news agencies AAP and Agence France-Presse (AFP), to join Meta’s third-party fact-checking program, which was launched in 2016.
Meta currently partners with more than 80 independent third-party fact-checkers that are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), working in more than 60 languages globally.
RMIT FactLab Director Russell Skelton said the partnership with Meta will see it debunking social media posts relating to Australia and the Asia Pacific region to help address viral misinformation.
“We see this as a really important public service. If we can play a role in preventing the dissemination of misinformation on social media that has the potential to mislead or harm, then we see that as providing a really critical service,” Skelton said.
RMIT FactLab will review and rate the accuracy of social media posts that relate to Australia, and which have been identified as potential misinformation by Meta. Researchers will interview primary sources, consult public data and conduct analyses of media, including photos and video.
Each time RMIT FactLab rates a piece of content on social media as false, Meta significantly reduces the content’s distribution so that fewer people see it.
Meta also notifies people who have shared the content or try to share it and applies a warning label that links the user to the fact check disproving the claim with original reporting. Fact-checkers do not remove content, accounts or Pages from Facebook or Instagram.
Skelton said RMIT FactLab — which has employed six recent RMIT journalism graduates on a casual basis to staff the new partnership — is also committed to continuing to work with researchers to try and better understand why some misinformation on social media goes viral while others don’t.
“A continuing focus of our work is to identify the super spreaders of misinformation and the ecosystems in which they operate. High impact misinformation disrupts evidence-based public policy and debate and so it is crucial we gain a better understanding of what drives this,” he said.
RMIT FactLab brings together experienced fact-check researchers with members of RMIT’s Centre for Information Discovery and Data Analytics (CIDDA) to conduct interdisciplinary research into misinformation online and the impact of new technologies including Artificial Intelligence on the digital news ecosystem.
RMIT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Design and Social Context (DSC) and Vice-President Professor Tim Marshall said the partnership between RMIT FactLab and Meta highlights the University’s strong global industry connections and commitment to collaborative partnerships to create the greatest impact.
“RMIT FactLab is committed to social media verification, research and education and improving public awareness of the disruptive and harmful nature of misinformation and disinformation,” Marshall said.
Meta Australia’s Head of Policy Josh Machin said the new partnership will “support our ongoing efforts to connect people to accurate information on Facebook and Instagram.”
“We know the importance of ensuring Australians have access to reliable information about the important topics on our platforms, like COVID-19 or the upcoming election in Australia,” he said.
RMIT FactLab will begin fact-checking social media posts as part of the Meta partnership on March 21.