Facebook and PAP campaign offers tips on how to spot false news

Be sceptical of headlines, consider the photos, investigate the sources - these are some of the tips offered by Facebook and the Polish Press Agency, which started an educational campaign on Tuesday to help internet users recognise so-called "false news".

Facebook uses the term "false news" rather than "fake news" because the latter has taken on a life of its own. "False news" more accurately communicates that it’s talking about intentionally false content that tries to be confused with legitimate news.

The head of the Facebook team on public policy in Poland and the Baltic countries, Jakub Turowski, emphasised at the press conference that the campaign is directed against "false news".

"We want to reach users via PAP’s Facebook page, with a series of 10 tips that should inspire people to take a critical look at the news," he said. He added that the campaign will run for approximately a month.

Among the recommendations: Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news; Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts; Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered; Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false; Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humour or satire.

In the opinion of Turowski, education and a careful reading of internet content is crucial in the fight against "false news". "We are convinced that an effective fight against false news is based on the cooperation of such entities as the Polish Press Agency, along with schools and public administration," he said.

In turn, the president of the Polish Press Agency Wojciech Surmacz stated that the most important asset of an agency is credibility. He stressed that credibility in the media, unfortunately, is something that is downplayed by many types of media.

"We've decided to become Facebook's partner in the fight (…) because we believe that the future of the media market depends on it," added the president of PAP.

Citing the words of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Turowski said that the issue of "false news" is in one sense similar to a weapons race. "We’ll always have to deal with people who’ll want to use the platform in an undesirable way, which is why educational campaigns are crucial."