UK Markets close in 2 hrs 7 mins

BBC partnered with Google and Facebook on general election fake news

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A general view of BBC headquarters. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA via Getty Images

The BBC partnered with Google (GOOGL), Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook (FB), and other news outlets to stymie the spread of fake news during December’s UK general election, its director-general Tony Hall said on Thursday.

Hall said that the BBC had been working “collaboratively” with the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, India’s Hindu newspaper on a partnership with Microsoft and Google to identify misinformation, as part of a previously announced initiative.

But Hall said on Thursday for the first time that it had been used prior to last month’s UK vote.

The BBC in September announced that it was working with the technology companies to develop an early warning system to use during elections or when lives may be at risk, calling the move a “crucial” step to fight disinformation.

The plan also includes media education, voter information plans, and shared learning initiatives.

The initiative works to de-emphasise stories that are just “plain wrong,” Hall said, speaking during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We’ve tried this out on paper exercises, but we tried it for real ... in the UK election, and it worked. That combination and contact between media that people trust and Google, Facebook, and whatever. It worked. And we took down some stuff which was just plain wrong — in copyright terms, but just wrong.”

“By the way, we haven’t talked about this anywhere yet, but why not here?”

Neither the BBC nor Google immediately responded to a request for more information about how the initiative was used in the general election.

Earlier in the talk, Hall noted that the BBC was still the most trusted source of news in the UK.

“For us, for the BBC, people still trust us more than any other form of media in the UK. Globally, trust is very very high.”

“And why do people use us? They may use three, four, five sources of news each day, but they come to us because they want to check whether [a story] is right," he said.