Watchdog criticizes Al-Jazeera English for lack of ‘basic standards of accuracy and accountability’

NewsGuard has urged readers to “proceed with extreme caution” when disseminating any output of the channel Al-Jazeera English. (AFP)
Updated 01 February 2019
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Watchdog criticizes Al-Jazeera English for lack of ‘basic standards of accuracy and accountability’

  • NewsGuard is a firm assessing credibility of news sources around the globe and produces a “fake news report”
  • Its website blacklists Al-Jazeera for not revealing “who is in charge including any possible conflict of interest”

LONDON: Qatari-owned news channel Al-Jazeera English has been slammed by news watchdog NewsGuard for failing to “maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability.”

NewsGuard has urged readers to “proceed with extreme caution” when disseminating any output of the channel, because it intentionally misrepresents the interests of the government of the Qatar, which finances and owns the website.

According to NewsGuard — a firm which assesses the credibility of news sources around the globe and produces a “fake news report” — Al-Jazeera English has failed to comply with a number of press standards.

The NewsGuard report said the fact Al-Jazeera English is a privately-owned subsidiary of the Al-Jazeera network circumvented rules of transparency of disclosure of sources of financing in accordance with international law.

On its website, NewsGuard lists the Al-Jazeera channel as not “gathering or presenting information responsibly” nor “handling the difference between news and opinion responsibly.”

Its website blacklists Al-Jazeera for not revealing “who is in charge including any possible conflict of interest,” or its “content creators, along with either contact or biographical information.”

Jeffrey Semino, a media analyst who edited a Washington-based Free Beacon investigation from a Guardian report, said: “NewsGuard believes that Al-Jazeera English’s claims that it is accurate cannot in any way balance its violations of the most basic principles of credibility due to its deliberate campaigns of defamation and propaganda in the context of news coverage about Qatar and its neighbors.”

The news comes after a Jan. 4 tweet from Al-Jazeera US’ Twitter channel which read: “Dear audience, we regret to inform you that this account will be closed at the end of January. We thank you for your loyalty and invite you to continue following our brave, in-depth and diverse coverage of the world on @AJEnglish & @AJPlus.”


Facebook targets fake news in Arabic language media

Updated 26 min 35 sec ago
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Facebook targets fake news in Arabic language media

  • Social media giant reveals plans to roll out further initiatives across the Arab world
  • “We want to empower people to decide what to read, trust and share”

LONDON: Facebook has again found itself under scrutiny amid global efforts to stamp out fake news circulating on social media sites. Nashwa Aly, Facebook’s head of public policy for the Middle East and North Africa, spoke to Arab News about the company’s new Arabic-language fact-checking service.
Q: Has the fact-checking service in Arabic already started? If so, are there any results as to how many articles are being flagged as false?
A: The third-party fact-checking in Arabic rolls out as of this month, so still no results to share yet. We recognize the implications of false news on Facebook and we are committed to doing a better job to fight it. More than 181 million people use Facebook every month across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), so this is a responsibility that we take very seriously, and we’re excited to see through the this launch in partnership with AFP MENA. 
How many people will be working on it and what kind of volume of false stories do you expect to identify daily?
It varies by country, but AFP draws on the resources of multiple local bureaus, as well as centralized Arabic-speaking fact-checkers, to fact-check content.
Why did Facebook choose to enter into this initiative? Is the fake news problem any worse in Arabic compared with other languages? Are there any specific issues in challenging this problem in Arabic compared with other languages?
This expansion with AFP, with whom we already have successful fact-checking partnerships across the Latin American and Asia Pacific regions, is a step forward in our efforts to combat Arabic-language misinformation, and we will continue to take steps to expand our efforts globally this year. This initiative is particularly important across MENA, given that misinformation is a major concern in the region.
The present challenges do not necessarily stem from the Arabic language. However, there are some challenges that can arise, such as how to treat opinion and satire. We strongly believe that people should be able to debate different ideas, even controversial ones. We also recognize that there can be a fine line between misinformation and satire or opinion. This can make it more difficult for fact-checkers to assess whether an article should be rated as “false” or left alone.
It appears from the announcement that Facebook will not be actively removing “fake news” links identified under this initiative with AFP. Is that right, and if so, do you think the initiative goes far enough?
The way this will work is that when fact-checkers rate a story as false, we significantly reduce its distribution in News Feed — dropping future views on average by more than
80 percent. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced, and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.
We also want to empower people to decide what to read, trust, and share. When third-party fact-checkers write articles about a news story, we show them in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. We also send people and Page Admins notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that has been determined to be false.
Finally, to give people more control, we encourage them to tell us when they see false news. Feedback from our community is one of the various signals that we use to identify potential hoaxes. 
Facebook also entered into an initiative with the UAE National Media Council to fight fake news. Is it looking to any other agreements in this field regionally, especially in Saudi Arabia?
The partnership with the UAE National Media Council and the launch of third-party fact-checking in Arabic, in partnership with AFP MENA are both key steps in our efforts against false news but are not nearly done yet. We plan to continue to take steps to expand our efforts this year both globally and regionally.