Can we really be certain every piece of content we share is authentic? Facebook is here to make sure.
It was a day like any other. I was catching up on some emails when all of a sudden my phone beeps with an odd Facebook notification:
“There’s additional reporting from an independent fact-checker on content that you’ve shared.”
I didn’t immediately grasp what this meant at first, and multiple questions popped into my head. Additional reporting? Content I’ve shared? I’ve shared upwards of 5000 posts on Facebook since I first joined in 2008, what exactly is Facebook talking about? I usually fact-check articles or content with alarming headlines and such. My mind began reeling.
After a couple of moments, I decide to unlock my phone. I click on the notification, and I’m taken to a Facebook page I had not seen before.
(Screenshot taken from desktop site for clarity)
So, as it turns out, I had shared a viral post back in 2017 showing a playful Keanu Reeves running away from a paparazzi with his camera in hand. This had been making the rounds in my social circles at the time, and the quality and framing of the photos had sold me on the fact that these were spontaneous images, perhaps even taken by another paparazzi, capturing his colleague’s altercation with John Wick.
As Facebook made sure to point out to me, this post was fake, or rather, inaccurate.
AFP Australia had taken it upon themselves to fact-check (or myth bust, if you’re so inclined) this viral post.
“A photo has been shared scores of times in a Facebook post which claims it shows US actor Keanu Reeves stealing a camera from the paparazzi,” AFP Australia said. “The claim is false; the photo has circulated online for years in media reports about Reeves filming scenes for the 2012 film Generation Um.”
The internet is now one wholesome Keanu post short, I’m afraid.
Facebook: “Increasing our efforts to fight false news”
In the past couple of years, Facebook has been on a tear, cracking down on fake and misleading content on its platform, which they have found to often be “financially motivated.”
The Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018, which saw certain parties manipulate public opinion to sway US elections results, was the tipping point for legislators, and a wake up call for users.
Naturally, and as a consequence, Facebook has been extra vigilant in its hunt for fake news and content on its site.
“False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust,” Adam Mosseri, then-VP of News Feed, said in a 2017 blog post. “It's not a new phenomenon, and all of us — tech companies, media companies, newsrooms, teachers — have a responsibility to do our part in addressing it.”
In a 2018 blog post by Tessa Lyons, Product Manager at Facebook, the company highlighted the measures they’re taking:
“-Expanding our fact-checking program to new countries;
-Expanding our test to fact-check photos and videos;
-Increasing the impact of fact-checking by using new techniques, including identifying duplicates and using Claim Review;
-Taking action against new kinds of repeat offenders;
-Improving measurement and transparency by partnering with academics.”
AFP Australia, which spotted my fake Keanu Reeves post, seems to be part of their fact-checker program.
"Because it’s evolving, we’ll never be able to catch every instance of false news — though we can learn from the things we do miss,” Lyons writes in a later post. “As a company, one of our biggest priorities is understanding the total volume of misinformation on Facebook and seeing that number trend downward.”
So while Facebook continues to shoot down fake content such as my Keanu post, the ever-scrutinized social media firm will be on its way to a safer platform, even if catching up with offenders’ efforts is a logistical impossibility.