Facebook launches ‘journalism project’

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Facebook has unveiled ‘The Facebook Journalism Project’ — an effort to become a better home for journalism as it faces criticism about its role in spreading fake news.

The world’s largest social network will work with newsrooms and support a campaign to teach users how to distinguish between hoaxes and real stories. Other initiatives include testing new business models for publishers, promoting local news and independent media, and running hackathons with developers from news organisations.

The moves show Facebook rethinking its role in distributing news after the US presidential election exposed how fake news can spread faster than true stories on the platform, and raised concerns about social media creating a filter bubble, where people see their own views reflected back to them.

“We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, and as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive,” a spokesperson said.

Facebook will work with news publishers on reaching new subscribers, including a partnership with the engineering team at Bild, the German publisher, testing offering free trials to engaged readers from within its Instant Articles product. The company is also partnering with the Washington Post, Fox News, El País and the Hindustan Times, among others, to develop ways to show more news to their readers.

It is also in the early stages of working with local media, which it describes as the “starting place for great journalism”, and expanding its commitment to the First Draft Partner network, which hosts a community that checks the authenticity of eyewitness videos or images posted online.

In addition, Facebook is to fund a series of public service ads, designed by the News Literacy Project, to help users think about the sources of their news. Alan Miller, a former LA Times journalist who now runs the News Literacy Project, said it would be taking the curriculum it developed for high school and middle school kids and using it to create “compelling” video ads to reach a broad swath of Facebook users.

The social network still insists it is a technology company rather than a media organisation charged with making editorial decisions. It has so far mainly tried to develop technical solutions to the fake news problem, rolling out a test that allowed independent fact checkers to flag fake news.

Last week, Facebook announced it had hired Campbell Brown, a former NBC and CNN anchor, to oversee news partnerships. Ms Brown wrote that Facebook had become a “major part” of the “massive” transformation in how people consume news and how journalists distribute it.

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