The current backlash against “fake news” has audiences clamoring for credibility. News media organisations are faced with a higher level of skepticism. In response, they are working to better educate consumers about how to identify quality journalism vs. “fake” or biased reporting — with a little help with some friends at Facebook. 

Fake news is nothing new, but new technology that allows like-minded people to rapidly share and perpetuate it (sometimes inadvertently, other times knowingly) is what landed Facebook and other social media networks right at the center of the controversy. 

Fidji Simo, Facebook’s director of product, explains the Facebook Journalism Project.
Fidji Simo, Facebook’s director of product, explains the Facebook Journalism Project.

Recognising its position and an opportunity to make a difference, Facebook recently launched the Facebook Journalism Project to partner and collaborate with news organisations in an effort to identify, flag, and limit the reach of false information shared on social media.

Fidji Simo, Facebooks director of product, discussed many details of the project with INMA, sharing valuable insights about the future role of Facebook in supporting quality journalism and educating consumers in news literacy.

INMA: What influenced the decision to establish the Facebook Journalism Project?

Simo: Facebook is a new kind of platform and we want to do our part to enable people to be informed. Our community has told us that they care about that, and news is an important part of how they get informed. Our News Feed values are to connect, inform, and entertain.

The Facebook Journalism Project is designed to support journalism and news literacy, and to serve as a hub for journalists and publishers to interact with Facebook. It’s the next step for us to enable our community to have meaningful conversations, to be informed, and to be connected to each other.

INMA: Can you describe the initial stages of the project in detail?

Simo: The Facebook Journalism Project will work in three ways: First is the collaborative development of products, where we will work even more closely alongside news organisations and connect our product and engineering teams so that we can build together from the early stages of the product development process. 

Next is tools and training for journalists. We currently offer newsroom trainings, but now we’ll take this to the next level with a series of e-learning courses on Facebook products, tools, and services for journalists. We’ve expanded these trainings to nine additional languages earlier this month, and will be partnering with Poynter to launch a certificate curriculum for journalists in the months ahead.

Lastly, we’re also thinking about training and tools for everyone, 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. We recently hosted a news literacy working group at Arizona State University focused on exploring concrete solutions to help people develop the skills necessary to better evaluate the news they consume and share. We’re also working with the News Literacy Project to produce a series of public service ads (PSAs) to help inform people on Facebook about this important issue.

INMA: What type of relationship building and collaboration has taken place thus far with the major publishers, such as The Washington Post and Vox Media? Are there others involved?

Simo: Those publishers are just a small sampling of those that are working with us on the Facebook Journalism Project. We are working with publishers of all shapes and sizes around the world. Since the launch of the program, we have been hosting roundtables and workshops with publishers including the Washington Post and Vox Media, as well as many, many others across all verticals, national, and local, broadcast, digital, and print in the U.S. and abroad.

We’ve also been hosting News on Facebook events, meeting with local news organisations in Atlanta and Dallas earlier this year, as well as in India, and we will be heading to San Diego and Seattle next. As part of our deeper collaboration with the industry, we want to work with all publishers on a global scale, and want to hear from everyone.

INMA: What is (or will be) Facebook’s role in the news media industry moving forward—and how is the Facebook Journalism Project influencing or shaping that role?

Simo: Facebook has long been a partner to journalists and journalism organisations. However, we think that being a new kind of platform brings a new kind of responsibility, and we can do more to work collaboratively with our news industry partners to support quality journalism.

The Facebook Journalism Project is key to this effort to deepen and broaden these relationships and a commitment to do more together. A strong news industry is critical to building an informed community, and there is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable. This deeper partnership should allow us to build better products to better support journalism.

INMA: How does advertising fit into this project and vision for the future?

Simo: As outlined in our Facebook Journalism Project announcement, we’re continuing to work on monetisation options for our partners. This is the kind of work we want to do more of.

We recently announced more video monetisation options, which include expanding our beta test of Ad Breaks in Facebook Live to additional Pages and profiles in the United States, and starting to test Ad Breaks in on-demand video on Facebook with a small number of partners. We also shared in this announcement the news that all eligible publishers can now make money from in-stream video ads on their own Web sites and apps through Audience Network.

INMA: How does a Facebook partnership/collaboration with publishers benefit news consumers?

Simo: We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news. We also know people on Facebook want informative stories – and that’s what journalism, at its best, provides. Facebook opens up news consumers to new and different stories, and new ways to interact with them. 

As we get more input from the news industry on how we can best support news organisation, and best help them inform people on our platform, we expect consumers to directly benefit from these innovations.

INMA: What strengths and advantages does Facebook have to offer for publishers and media companies?

Simo: We launched the Facebook Journalism Project to help our news partners leverage Facebook for their own benefit — both to connect with their readers and to source news. As attention shifts to mobile, we can help publishers reach their audiences there, in the formats that best suit consumers — whether it’s fast-loading articles like Instant Articles, or Live, or even 360 videos.

As we work more closely with partners, we fully expect to develop innovative solutions that help them reach and understand their readers in even better ways, like the test we’re running allowing publishers to give readers access to a daily digest of news on Facebook.

INMA: Recent news articles indicate that Facebook may be able to provide publishers with beneficial online tools, such as CrowdTangle. Do you envision Facebook playing an ongoing role in supporting publishers with technology solutions and tools? If yes, then what are some examples?

Simo: Yes, definitely. We can better serve the needs of people on Facebook, and those of our partners, when we work with news organisations across the spectrum to develop products collaboratively. That includes both the experiences for people discovering and reading news on Facebook, and the tools for news organisations and journalists gathering news from Facebook and publishing news to Facebook.

We’ve worked with our news partners on this in the past, but as part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we’ll begin an even deeper collaboration with them, including connecting our product and engineering teams so that they can build together. A great example of this is with our upcoming hackathons in New York and London, which will bring our teams together to hack at solutions that will help solve a problem important to publishers, journalists, and readers.

INMA: News reports mention the possibility of Facebook offering financial assistance grants for news literacy projects. Can you tell us more about that?

Simo: These efforts are still early days, but our next step since the announcement is the recently held working group at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, Arizona.

This was the first in a series of working groups focused on news literacy with a variety of journalists, publishers, platforms, educators, academics, third-party organisations, start-ups, and nonprofits gathering together. The goal of this effort is to figure out how — together with publishers and educators — we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age.

The weekend’s action-oriented meeting presented an opportunity for some of the world’s most passionate advocates of news literacy initiatives to review past research, identify new research questions, and assess projects for future funding.

INMA: Facebook’s commitment to partner with outside groups for fact-checking is commendable — and a major undertaking. How does this work? What partnerships have been established as part of this effort?

Simo: We’re testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. We’ve started a programme to work with third-party fact-checking organisations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles, these include AP, ABC News, Snopes, Politifact, and FactCheck.org. We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organisations.

If the fact-checking organisations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed, and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed. It will still be possible for people to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share. Once a story is flagged, it can’t be made into an ad and promoted, either.

All of the details on this announcement can be found in our News Feed FYI post from December. We are also proud to partner with The News Literacy Project to promote news literacy both on and off our platform, and they are excited to be partnering with us.