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Fb unearths anti-disinfo software for presidential election

Meta announced Agence France-Presse (AFP) will act as its fact-checking and disinformation watchdog

Weeks before the first round of France’s presidential election, US tech giant Meta has announced a set of new initiatives for combating “misinformation” on the platforms it owns, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The initiatives are meant to boost “media literacy” in France and teach people “the best practices for dealing with information online,” the company owned by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.

WhatsApp users in particular will be able to report messages they consider false to Meta’s chosen watchdog, Agence France-Presse (AFP). The French news agency was signed up by what was then called Facebook to provide fact checking services in France in 2017. It has since expanded coverage to many other European countries, with Greece and Cyprus being among the latest additions.

Adding an AFP reporting option to the popular messenger is “an important step in the fight against false information,” Meta said. The agency is also releasing three educational videos on how to develop the “right reflexes” for responding to “dubious information during the election period.”

The two other campaigns are likewise educational. One involves Loopsider, a French visual content provider that was created in 2018. It produces short videos based on current news and human interest stories aimed at younger audiences getting their information via social media. Loopsider will teach their followers the same skills as AFP, according to Meta.

Meanwhile, US journalism school the Poynter Institute and French state-owned broadcaster France 24 teamed up to offer a free 10-day training course on how to “spot conspiracy theories, scams, false information and other forms of manipulation” circulating on the internet. Meta said it was hopeful about its effect after learning how similar programs worked in other countries.

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The US tech giant said the initiatives are part of its wider effort to use its platforms to protect the French presidential election, which is to take place in April, from interference. France’s President Emmanuel Macron is seeking a second term and is currently leading in the polls. Right-wing politician Marine Le Pen and center-right politician Valerie Pecresse pose the biggest challenges to him.