France is 10 days away from the first round of voting to select its next president, and there appears to be a dead heat among four major candidates. With the race achingly tight, Facebook has launched a campaign to try to limit the impact of fake news on the outcome.
In a blog post, the company said it had taken action against 30,000 fake accounts. This is part of a larger public awareness campaign aimed at educating people about how to spot fake news.
“We’ve found that a lot of false news is financially motivated, and as part of our work to promote an informed society, we have focused on making it very difficult for dishonest people to exploit our platform or profit financially from false news sites using Facebook,” wrote Shabnam Shaik, a manager on Facebook’s security team.
Facebook has been facing a bit of a blowback following the results of the U.S. election in November, with accusations that its platform facilitated the spread of false or misleading information.
Now, the company seems intent on at least making a public showing of tackling the problem in Europe before elections. Back in February, Google and Facebook announced a partnership with French newsrooms to identify and combat fake news. Facebook took out ads in several major French newspapers today to help combat fake news, according to TechCrunch. And this week, Facebook debuted similar tips in users’ news feeds.
Of course, it’s difficult to know just how much impact this will have on what people are actually reading. But the latest poll (released today) shows that four candidates are within a couple of percentage points of each other, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the second round of voting next month.
A race this close, with so many candidates, would seem to be more susceptible to being influenced by fake news. On the other hand, with France being a smaller market, it’s not clear there is the same financial incentive to create fake news as there is in the United States.