On Monday, the world’s largest social networking company published a note attempting to debunk an incorrect rumor that had been floating across Facebook user Timelines in the preceding days: that Facebook had adjusted its terms of service and data usage policy to obtain full copyright over users’ posts.
Facebook, for its part, succinctly pointed out in its note that that no such change had or was occurring, and that the terms pertaining to copyright remained as before, giving users ownership over their media, but also granted Facebook a “non-exclusive” license to reuse user content in whatever ways it sees fit (advertising mostly, for now).
But in attempting to bust the mythic meme, Facebook relied on a relatively new feature: “Fact Check.”
“While this is a relatively new feature on our Newsroom site, this is not the first time we have used the Fact Check page,” wrote Facebook Director of Policy Communications Sarah Feinberg in a statement to TPM. “Previously — several weeks ago — we used the page to explain and provide a statement related to a story that was spreading quickly about the site being down in Europe. ”
Indeed, in mid-October, European Web users flocked to Twitter to complain that Facebook was down while a known troll and hoax Twitter account claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous (“@AnonymousOwn3r”). Facebook attempted to fight this misinformation with a Fact Check for European users.
But for U.S. users, Monday’s Facebook Fact Check was likely the first they had encountered.
Asked by TPM whether Facebook would be using the feature more often going forward, Feinberg confirmed that the company would — although just to clarify Facebook-related news and information, not anything outside of the website, at least not in the foreseeable future.
“We plan to continue to use the page in the future as well, in a capacity that matches its name - to serve as a fact check,” Feinberg said. ” Fact Check is meant to be a page where anyone can go to get a reality check if a rumor or piece of misinformation is spreading…The Fact Check feature will be focused on only FB-related rumors and misinformation. ”
Indeed, not only that, but the Facebook Fact Checker won’t even serve as a longterm record of corrected falsehoods. Instead, Feinberg explained to TPM that statements are only kept up as long as Facebook deems them “relevant,” then takes them back down “once the misinformation seems to have been corrected.”
So dreams of a presidential debate moderated by Facebook’s Fact Checker will have to remain just that — dreams — for now.