Facebook has started what it calls the Journalism Project, which it says is aimed at helping media outlets improve their online content and business models.
Facebook has partnered with Craigslist founder and journalism advocate Craig Newmark in a $14-million effort called the News Integrity Initiative. The initiative will fund research and projects related to improving news literacy and trust in journalism. It will also host events at which experts can discuss related issues. Other members of the initiative include the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, web-browser maker Mozilla and New York-based startup incubator Betaworks.
The project's base will be the City University of New York's (CUNY) journalism school. CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis said that the idea came from conversations he had with Newmark about the need to fight back against the rise of fake news and misinformation. In recent times the Craigslist founder has become a significant donor to journalism – committing $1 million to fund an ethics chair at the Florida-based Poynter Institute journalism school and as well as donating money to Wikipedia.
Newmark has said that he believes a trustworthy press "is the immune system of democracy," and that trust is the most important quality a free press can have. "Consumers want news we can trust. I know I do, but trust works both ways," he told Fortune in an email after the announcement. "We have to put some demands on news organizations that they [will] be as transparent as possible."
Jarvis also noted, "we designed the governance to assure that neither Facebook nor any other funder would have direct control over grants and to make sure that we would not be put in a position of doing anything we did not want to do."
In the past, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to avoid describing the social network as a media entity. He was very skeptical about the idea of "fake news" being a problem, or that Facebook needed to do anything about it. But, Zuckerberg recently acknowledged that Facebook does play a significant role in how people get their news, saying: "We know there is misinformation and even outright hoax content on Facebook, and we take this very seriously." The company has taken a number of steps to try to stamp out fake news, including setting up a process whereby it takes fact-checking and verification efforts from third-party outlets like Politifact and Snopes.