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12.01.2017 Will Facebook’s journalism project tackle fake news?

Last year social media giant Facebook became mired in controversy over the spread of fake news on its site.

There were even accusations that untrue stories and misinformation being shared on the platform might have influenced the outcome of the US election.

Indeed, analysis by Buzzfeed News found fake election news got more attention than real news on Facebook during the last few months of the campaign.

shutterstock_353116961Influenced by fake news? Credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg initially responded to criticisms by saying more than 99 per cent of its content was “authentic”, but under pressure to act he later pledged to combat the growing problem.

Yesterday Facebook revealed the result of that promise, the Facebook Journalism Project, which it said would establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry.

Facebook said it would be “collaborating with news organisations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age”.

shutterstock_293765597 (1)Credit: Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock.com

The project will work in three ways:

 

1) Collaborative development of news products

Facebook said it would work with its news partners to develop new products and new storytelling formats.

It also said it was interested in “exploring what we can build together with our partners to support local news and promote independent media”.

It is also exploring new and emerging business models, working with partners on ways to monetise what they do.

 

2) Training and tools for journalists

Facebook already offers newsroom training, but it said it would be conducting a series of e-learning courses on Facebook products, tools and services for journalists.

It said it would also be building more tools to help journalists use Facebook Live to report and discover news as easily as possible. 

 

3) Training and tools for everybody 

As well as supporting journalism, Facebook said it would be working on new ways to help give people information so they can make “smart choices” about the news they read and have “meaningful conversations” about what they care about.

This will be done in partnership with journalists, educators and researchers.

Facebook also said it would work to promote “news literacy” and continue efforts to curb news hoaxes.

 

Facebook said this was just the beginning of its efforts, and it acknowledged it had much more to do.

We are now officially living in a “post-truth” era, in which trust in journalism and politics is at an all time low. People are increasingly turning away from traditional news sources, but are unsure where to turn next.

Many are turning to social media for their news and, while it is an incredibly powerful and influential platform for sharing genuine journalism, it lacks the checks and balances of traditional news sources.

As the world’s largest social media network, it’s good to see Facebook acknowledging its responsibility to its users. It is unfortunate that it has taken it so long to act on the problem of fake news, but it is reassuring that it has finally taken some concrete steps instead of just paying lip service to the problem.

We will watch how the journalism project pans out with interest.

Cover image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com