Content posted on Facebook in the UK will now be fact-checked by an independent charity after years of criticism that the social network has failed adequately to address the spread of fake news on its sites.

Although Facebook has stepped up its efforts to combat false information in the US and several other countries, this is the first time that a dedicated and separate team in the UK will join its international fact-checking initiative.

Full Fact, a British fact-checking charity founded in 2010, has been taken on to review stories, images and videos referred to it by Facebook users to determine whether they are false or not.

The organisation explained in a statement that its teams will only scrutinise images, videos or articles presented as fact-based reporting and that opinion or satirical content will be exempt.

A priority will be dealing with the most harmful forms of misinformation, such as dangerous fake medical stories or false information about terrorist attacks and voting processes during elections.

Posts will be labelled as true, false or a mixture of accurate and inaccurate content, with the information relayed to users before they are about to share a story – or if they have already done so.

However, in a move that is unlikely to appease Facebook’s critics, Full Fact said users would not be stopped from sharing false information. Instead of removing false stories, these will be flagged and appear lower in the news feed to limit their spread.

Full Fact said it couldn’t provide a “magic pill”, but “we’ll be able to give users information to help them scrutinise false or misleading content themselves and hopefully limit its spread – without stopping them sharing anything they want to.”

It also stressed its independence from Facebook, stating that the company will have “no control” over what it chooses to check or what ratings it gives to content.

In addition, all checks will upload automatically to the platform with no member of Facebook’s staff viewing them before they go live.

“This isn’t a magic pill. Fact-checking is slow, careful, pretty unglamorous work – and realistically we know we can’t possibly review all the potentially false claims that appear on Facebook every day,” Full Fact said.

“But it is a step in the right direction, and a chance to tackle misinformation that makes a real difference to people’s lives.”

Sourced from Full Fact; additional content by WARC staff