With Karnataka heading for Assembly elections next month, Facebook has announced a third-party fact-checking programme in the southern state to fight spread of fake news on its platform.

Karnataka goes to election on May 12, and the counting of votes will take place on May 15.

The social media giant has partnered with BOOM, an independent digital journalism initiative, for a pilot programme that will first roll out in the poll-bound state.

“Today, we are announcing a third-party fact-checking program in India. Aimed to fight the spread of false news on our platform, we have partnered with BOOM…for a pilot program that will first roll out in the state of Karnataka,” Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Once a story is rated as false, Facebook claims, it has learnt to reduce distribution of the story by 80 per cent, thereby improving “accuracy of information on Facebook and reduce misinformation”.

“Starting today, BOOM, certified through the International Fact-Checking Network, non-partisan international fact checking network at Poynter, will be able to review English language news stories flagged on Facebook, check facts, and rate their accuracy,” Facebook said in the post.

The social networking giant has 217 million monthly active users in India.

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“We are beginning small and know it is important to learn from this test and listen to our community as we continue to update ways for people to understand what might be false news in their News Feed,” it said.

Explaining how the fact-checking will work, the Facebook post said, “When a fact-checker rates a story as false, we will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution. This in turn stops the hoax from spreading and reduces the number of people who see it.”

Facebook said it wanted to empower people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share by providing the community with more information and control.

“If third-party fact-checkers write articles debunking a false news story, we’ll show it in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed,” the post said, adding, “We’ll also send people and Page Admins notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false.”

Facebook claimed to be “working hard” to improve the accuracy of information, and said it was trying to teach people how to spot false news.

Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise removed.

“We’ll also send people and Page Admins notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false,” Facebook noted.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said earlier it is important to make sure no one interferes in any more elections, including in India.

“Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions,” he said while testifying before the US Congress last week.

“The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he told a panel of 44 Senators.

Zuckerberg had said Facebook would ensure that its platform was not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.