Saying the internet has a fake news problem is like saying a sewer has lighting issues. Fake news, also known as sensationalist or yellow journalism by some saw a massive resurgence with the ubiquity of social media. Facebook became a known bastion of the problem during the Trump election as numerous fake stories circulated through the social media platform. At that time Mark Zuckerberg was reported as saying “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” according to Variety.
Well, it seems that the head of Facebook is thinking differently now as the company has joined forces with other major tech industry leaders to create a $14 million fund to advance news literacy. It’s a sensible move since the Pew Research Center revealed that 66% of Facebook users received news from the social media site last year in spite of Zuckerberg’s assertation that the company was “…a tech company, not a media company,” during his trip to Rome. The only site during the study to edge out that percentage was Reddit at 70%.
The list of founding funders on this project includes Mozilla, the City University of New York (CUNY), the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, AppNexus, and Betaworks. The overall project is known as the News Integrity Initiative.
The Initiative will be run as an independent project by CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and housed therein. Their goal is to advance news literacy and improve the quality of news reports shared online. It is not known yet who will be the general manager of the Initiative though they will report to the dean of CUNY’s School of Journalism.
The contribution from Facebook is likely a response to the threat of fines by the German Government. Back in December, the chairman of Germany’s Social Democrat Party, Thomas Oppermann suggested new rules that would see the company facing fines of up to € 500,000 ($533,845.82 USD) for each fake news story that the company failed to take down from the site. This suggestion was put forward as a precaution in anticipation of Germany’s upcoming Parliamentary Elections.
Thus far the Initiative’s initial plan is to conduct research and develop projects to create better-informed communities while meeting with industry leaders on the subject. At this time they are still seeking additional funding and participants according to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism during their announcement.
It’s clear Facebook is attempting to make forward momentum in the wake of recent bad press. Let’s see if the company’s efforts carry forward throughout the year.
If not, well, you’ll probably find out about it on Facebook.
Feature image courtesy of FierceCable