The Greek government has lashed out against Facebook, after the social media platform decided to partner with a “controversial” fact-checker in the country. Athens says it is now prepared to raise the issue at an EU level, unless it gets satisfactory answers.
As part of its third-party fact-checking programme, Facebook announced on 2 May it would expand the programme in Greece to include the non-profit organisation Ellinika Hoaxes.
However, according to critics, this website does not fulfil the criteria to tackle growing fake news in the country, as the company only employs one journalist.
“We are surprised by technology giant Facebook’s decision to entrust the work of the Guardian of Truth on the Greek Internet news to a company that does not have the same expertise and experience as other Facebook partners such as AFP and Associated Press,” Greek deputy digital minister Lefteris Kretsos told EURACTIV.com.
Several surveys have confirmed that Greeks rely heavily on the Internet to read the news as the trust toward traditional media has been in decline. A 2018 Eurobarometer survey found that the lowest level of trust in television in Europe was seen in Greece (40%).
Kretsos said Facebook’s decision to assign the “traffic policeman” role to a company that does not have the capacity to do so is very serious, especially 20 days before the EU elections.
“The Greek hoaxes website is associated with Athens Voice magazine, which has a specific political orientation. Of course, this is the media’s democratic right, but it has produced fake news in the past,” the minister added.
Kretsos also raised doubts over the website’s funding, saying that in its Facebook bid, it says it’s a non-profit organisation while in its new statute, it’s a for-profit organisation.
“On 22 May, the EU Council of Ministers will focus on misinformation […] I am planning to raise the issue if we have not received answers. We do not want the Greek public broadcaster or the Athens News Agency to take over. But in this country, don’t we have serious journalists and analysts, universities or research centres?” the Greek minister said.
Facebook sources told EURACTIV that Ellinika Hoaxes, as well as all the other partners the company engages with for third party fact checking, have been certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which approves fact-checking partners based on specific ethics guidelines
The same sources noted that as Facebook is not the arbiter of truth, it relies on IFCN to set guidelines for these high standards, and if a fact-checking partner were to be found in violation of these standards, we would not partner with them.
Orsek said Greek Hoaxes was a verified signatory to IFCN’s Code of Principles and made it clear that IFCN’s Code of Principles is applied to the fact-checking units “not the parent and collaborating organisations”.
“Therefore I’m not entitled to comment on Athens Voice,” he said.
Regarding the number of staff members at Greek Hoaxes, Orsek commented, “We rely on the information that we have from their application and assessment, which shows the full staff of the team via Who We Are“.
[By Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com Edited by Samuel Stolton and Zoran Radosavljevic]