Fake News Prompts Media Industry Project

John Lister's picture

Facebook has joined a host of tech companies and non-profit groups to launch a $14 million project to fight fake news. The News Integrity Initiative's aim is to help people "make informed judgments about the news they read and share online."

The project will be run by the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York (CUNY). As well as Facebook, it's backed by Firefox developer Mozilla, online ad company AppNexus and journalism investment group, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others.

The main activity will be holding events at a range of media organizations around the world, as well as funding specific projects and research. (Source: cuny.edu)

Independent Media Gets Boost

It will run at the same time as a Facebook-specific project to build stronger ties with journalists and media groups to help promote legitimate journalism on the site. This will include making it easier for news outlets to show multiple stories to Facebook users; giving bigger exposure to local and independent media; and finding new ways for media groups to boost revenue such as articles posted on Facebook including a link to sign up to a free trial of newspaper pay sites.

Facebook is also working with journalists to develop guidelines on the best way to find and verify eyewitness reports, photos and videos of breaking news events that have been posted on the site. (Source: fb.com)

Readers Attitudes Must Change

A big part of both Facebook's own projects and the new News Integrity Initiative is to tackle the problem from both sides, dealing with readers as well as reports. That will entail educational programs to help people learn more about how to assess news sources and decide how trustworthy they are.

Worthy as the projects are, there is something of a contradiction given the way Facebook displays links to news stories and lets users share them with friends. An article that is written specifically to appeal to people's preconceptions or outrage them - even an article that is completely falsified - may well get more shares on Facebook and in turn lead to more people visiting the author's website and thus boosting their ad revenue.

What's Your Opinion?

What measures would you like the News Integrity Initiative to take? Is Facebook part of the problem as well as offering possible solutions? Do readers need to take more responsibility to verify news stories before sharing them online?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Fake news gets clicks for a reason - it's usually outlandish titles, bogus descriptions, and fake pictures portraying something else entirely that gets the click. This is affectionately known as "click bait". Click bait has been a major problem not only for "fake news," but in advertising as a whole.

The fact is, few people will click and share legitimate news if the fake news is so much more appealing. Also, fake news can look very much like legitimate news - and being able to tell the difference apart can be difficult.

The only thing I see coming out of this is a special focus on real news stories from real sites, and in turn - as the article mentions - links to paid subscriptions to newspaper sites. As such, I don't see this as being anything more than a big advertisement campaign for 'paid for news' by newspaper companies to garner subscriptions. Surely Facebook will profit from this 'special focus' initiative and so will newspaper companies.

jdubow's picture

This is almost certainly going to be a total cluster fudge.

1. It didn't start clean. It started when Hillary lost the election and the left wanted to blame anyone or anything but her or the rational choice of people. Ergo they were fooled by fake news, or Russian news, or news from outer space. Blame is easier than introspection.

2. Given the politicized start and the liberal cast of characters, it is unlikely that the choices of what is fake will be depoliticized.

3. The first couple of obviously politicized choices will tank the credibility of the project. Liberals and the media will love it, and use it for political ads to attack their opponents.

4. Even if, despite all that, the project will suffer from false alarms (positives). I work in detectors for various substances. Too may false alarms and the detector gets trashed. If the project falsly selects conservative fake news then it will get head shaking and disdain. If it falsely suggests liberal fake news it will get outrage, demonstrations, booting off campus and calls for criminal prosecution. The left never forgets.

In conclusion, the odds of success, even if the program's founders were of good will, is extremely small. In today's polarized environment the chance of acceptance is even smaller. Given the makeup of the project staff the probability of success becomes vanishingly small. Three strikes and it is out. The founders should have chosen an easy project to start, like defining obscenity. Still, it is serving a near term purpose for the media and the Democratic liberal left.

dan400man's picture

^ Amen.

royala_5291's picture

News media has been the neutral top reliable method of getting daily topics and education of all kinds for decades and decades. All it took was less than a year of one-sided news and unverified news stories with a purposeful slant to become unreliable in the public's eye.

It will take years-if not decades-to fix all the damage that has been done no matter who or what tries to repair the damage. The reliability is gone, and the loss of truthfulness in reporting has promoted hate mongering, division of peoples, and distrust of any entity that used to have that type of power.

ecash's picture

There is a problem with NEWS..in the past, Black and White TV days, it WAS BORING..
People watch the weather then Turn the channel or go DO SOMETHING ELSE..

JUST facts, is NEWS..
NO opinion..NO pointing fingers..NO guessing or Innuendo..
NO Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda..

Look up Edward R Murrow..

IF' they want to make Opinions or anything BESIDES NEWS..then STATE IT on the front.
60 minutes is OPINION..with FACTS..but Still OPINION.
90% of what I see is BS..7% LIE/fabrication and Finger pointing..2% entertaining, 1% news. And Im being nice..that 1% is ALLOT LOWER..

this is only mentioning the INTERNET..
NOT newspapers or TV, or any other source of information..Even School.

blueboxer2's picture

Statisical fact: half of the population is below average in intelligence. What's your first reaction? Fake news or real news? Click bait or useful study? Straight or slanted? Fact or fiction? Publish it on Facebook and what reaction will you get?

(Suggestions: Libertarian: True. Their problem. Who cares? Fascist: True. Menaces to the State. Sterilize them. Conservative: Sounds true. But God did so don't ask me to pay to clean it up. Liberal: Maybe true. Set up a commission to find out. Socialist: true but likely worse. We must help these people. Marxist: From each according to his ability.. -truth not relevant.)

Take any group of common units, divide on a common characteristic - in short, take an average, and of necessity half will be on one side of the line and half on the other. Its how arithmetic works.

But note in my little tongue-in-cheek example above, how I suggest individual reactions to the truth may vary considerably, depending on how it caters to his or her prejudices. So how do you set up a crew of moderators who can reliably and without prejudice call what's rue and what's false, what matters and what is clickbait, what is constructive and what is mischievous? For "everything" posted on Face book?

Lots of luck.

ecash's picture

that has been true ALWAYS..
Who do you listen to..but the idea of truth is easy, its those that wish to ADD to the subject. And WHAT they add.

The English/American language is complected by the fact that there are So many ways to say...Could have, Might have, Probably, to inference a Statement or Comment..

I saw an advert with the word 'AND' in it for What they were trying to give away..the Word should have been 'OR' as you dont get BOTH PRIZES..I contacted the person responsible, and noted this to them...THEY DIDNT UNDERSTAND..

For all the stuff I hear and watch, its Fun to see mistakes. My problem with all this, is the fact that they are AIMING at the internet, ONLY..

I would love to Simplify our language. And loose about 1/3 of the words.

ecash's picture


But HOW do we Stop them from Lying..
Or are they JUST STUPID..

cadd's picture

To me this looks like a sneaky mechanism whereby the media can snoop people who are likely to cause them trouble, and use the social media system to0 censure them.

OK, maybe that's not their exact or complete motive, but you can be pretty sure that whatever they're [i]telling[/i] you their motive is has nothing to do with their real motive.

After all their real business has everything to do with selling advertising and little to do with public service.

If that were not the case you'd be hearing much less slant on Washington politics.