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Google, Facebook and French media team up against "fake news"

PARIS — French journalists are teaming up with American internet giants Google and Facebook to fight propaganda and misinformation online, mirroring similar efforts already underway in the United States and Germany.

Facebook & fake news 06:33

French daily Le Monde says it is one of eight media organizations working with social networking site Facebook to fact-check questionable content ahead of France’s upcoming presidential election.

At the same time, nonprofit First Draft News announced the launch of CrossCheck, a verification project aimed at helping French voters “make sense of what and who to trust online.” Google’s News Lab is also involved.

Google and Facebook have both been under increasing scrutiny over the spread of hoaxes, conspiracy theories and propaganda — sometimes referred to by the catchall term “fake news.”

There’s an argument that fake news helped secure the victory of Donald Trump, whose false allegations about former President Barack Obama helped lay the foundation for his own run for high office. Recent research has questioned the impact of propaganda and hoaxes, but with France’s election only two-and-a-half months away, media-watchers here are anxious to avoid a rerun.

“We’ll see a real wave of fake news in the coming days,” said Alain Rabatel, a professor of linguistics at the University of Lyon 1 who has written about fact-checking in French journalism.

Le Monde said Monday that its collaboration was “an experiment,” noting that the French media were leery of participating in a stunt to help burnish Silicon Valley firms’ reputations — and that remuneration would have to be discussed if the project kept going.

In a telephone interview, Rabatel had guarded praise, saying journalists had to be more than just fact-checkers.

“I think it’s good,” he said. “It’s not sufficient.”

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