“I think for Facebook it’s a great initiative because clearly they recognise they’re facing a lot of criticisms for content that is incorrect and misleading and they’re doing something about it.
Governments are going to mandate that some of the things that are published have to be checked.
AAP CEO Bruce Davidson
“It might take a while to grow to a level that will make a big difference but we’re really pleased about potentially helping in that regard and it’s a revenue stream for us as well,” he said.
AAP is owned by Nine Entertainment Co, Seven West Media and News Corp. Nine is the owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and has the biggest stake in the news wire business.
Mr Davidson said he suspects there could be an international push to formalise the requirement for digital platforms to use fact checking services to prevent the spread of misinformation.
“I think we’re going to see a situation globally where, while Facebook and Google are taking some of the pressure seriously, it could be that eventually governments are going to mandate that some of the things that are published have to be checked,” he said.
“I think it will become essentially a bigger industry in terms of working with the social media platforms.”
Facebook has deals with many third-party fact checkers and requires that they are certified members of Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. However, Facebook has refused to fact check claims made directly by politicians, and will not take down posts even if they are demonstrably false.
Mr Davidson said his fact-checking team is “not massive” at the moment and there is “an opportunity to grow the relationship” The current deal is on a fee-for-service basis, but Mr Davison would not quantify how much Facebook pays the organisation for the service.
“We think potentially, with some better technology from Facebook… that’ll help us be more productive in that area and I really do think that will grow.”
When AAP fact checkers determine a post is misleading, false or incorrect, the post is typically downgraded in a feed making it unlikely to surface for most Facebook users. Anyone who has shared a post of this type is notified and given a link to explain why this decision was made and a publisher can dispute the rating.
“It’s like all pieces of journalism, it comes with a lot of responsibility because if we say something is wrong we have to prove it’s wrong,” he said.
Another major push Mr Davidson is keen to be behind is a tightening of copyright law, which he said currently allows websites to easily rip off journalism at a time when news organisations are increasingly reliant on subscriptions from readers.
“While we’re a business-to-business [provider], we’re a wholesaler of content … we don’t want that content being monetised beyond that customer because they don’t have the licence for it,” he said, adding that Nine CEO Hugh Marks and News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller were on board with the push.
“The internet has allowed a lot of that. I think we really need to increase the pressure on government to make sure we do get that protection.”
He said it was the “same boat” the music industry had been in during the early-2000s, which saw labels and creators work closely with the government to change the rules.
“Why should platforms, why should aggregators, why should individuals use our content without paying for it?”
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.