Social Media

Facebook Wants To Help Journalists ‘Improve’ Their Work

It seems like Mark Zuckerberg finally wants to get serious about news

Social Media
Illustration: Diana Quach
Jan 11, 2017 at 2:24 PM ET

Facebook still won’t call itself a media company, but it is coming closer to dipping its foot in the journalism pool. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is launching a new Journalism Project that aims to support “quality journalism, improve news literacy and provide reporters and editors with tools and training to help them tell better stories.”

Facebook’s announcement comes as the social network has been under fire over the past couple years for the way it handles news. The platform has been a major hub for the spreading of fake news stories — i.e. patently false news reports and hoaxes, and has also been accused of biased filtering of certain political stories, both with humans and AI.

One goal is to put an end to all that and make the News Feed a “healthy news ecosystem.” The team behind the project will be working with news organizations, publishers and educators to make sure that the news on the platform is of a minimum level of quality and easier to digest and share. Recently, it also shared a new strategy it is testing for fact-checking and flagging dubious content.

More Facebook Launches A Strategy To Fight ‘Fake News’

Facebook’s lengthy to-do list also aims to support local news, hackathons with publishers, PSAs that promote news literacy and free trials to paid subscriptions, among others. Access to CrowdTangle will also be part of the project. The startup, which was recently acquired by Facebook, helps journalists find and gather social news, monitor trends and see statistics for posts they’ve shared.

While this initiative is still in its early stages, there is potential for it to improve how larger news organizations verify and report on local news stories. Currently news on Facebook is somewhat becoming commoditized to the point where people will just read whatever shows up on their News Feed regardless of who wrote it of where it’s coming from.

Facebook partnered with First Draft Partner Network, a coalition of platforms and more than 80 publishers, that provides practical and ethical guidance in how to find and verify content sourced from the social web. This partnership might help newsrooms quickly pick up breaking stories from small towns and make sure they’re accurate.

Facebook says it has been working on The Journalism Project for months and did not create it as a response to criticism on how the company handled news during the election. Last week, the company hired former TV news anchor Campbell Brown as a liaison to the media world.

Some details about this project have yet to be fleshed out, but it’s known that some of its features are being tested by the Washington Post, Vox Media and Fox News and some other international news outlets.