Formidable names in the tech world, including Facebook, Mozilla, along with other industry leaders, nonprofit organizations, and the City University of New York banded together to launch a $14 million effort to bolster news literacy in today's age.
The funding will be used for the News Integrity Initiative, a concerted effort to increase the trust in journalism globally, while also "better informing the public conversation."
As ABC News reports, the initiative will be run as an independent undertaking by the CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism, with the support of the university's Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.
News Integrity Initiative
In a press release, the News Integrity Initiative said the mission is to advance the public's news literacy. The fund will be used to support applied research and products, and will help participants enter meetings and discussions with experts on the field of journalism. The initiative will appoint its own general manager, and the said person will report to CUNY's School of Journalism dean.
The early participants will contribute to the overall narrative surrounding news literacy, hold events in different parts of the world, and pitch research projects to the initiative to request for funding. Among these participants are Arizona State University, Edelman, the European Journalism Centre in Netherlands, Hamburg Media School in Germany, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and more.
The initiative comes at an opportune time when public trust in the news industry is at a low, according to polls. This incredulity stems from the proliferation of fake news on social media platforms of late, a phenomenon Facebook once shrugged off, but is now working hard to fight.
The Rise Of Fake News
Fake news started getting traction during the 2016 Presidential Election, a time of hotly stringent politics, in which false reports about the candidates masqueraded as legitimate news were being passed around social media. Facebook failed to block these news items from view. Once Trump had won the election, op-eds claiming Hillary Clinton's loss stemmed from the failure to halt fake news propagation circulated around the web. This opened up a debate regarding whether Facebook should take the responsibility for allowing fake news stories to show up on its site sans any repercussions for the perpetrators.
But while Facebook downplayed the severity of the allegations, it has since admitted that it was a different kind of tech company, in a way that it's also responsible for the content that's endorsed using its platform.
"As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we want to give people the tools necessary to be discerning about the information they see online," said Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnership.
While there's still ample provenance of fake news, it helps that major tech companies like Google and Facebook are facilitating their own measures to stop its ascent, with the former committing to efforts in flagging false and offensive content in search results, and with the latter rolling out a "disputed" tag for known fake news. It doesn't there, of course, but these are crucial first steps.
While fake news per se can't be eliminated in one single sweep, helping the public understand the supposed caliber of dignified and accurate journalism they should turn to might at least help them detect particular trouble spots when reading fake news. Online space doesn't foster the same strict rules and standards for publishing as opposed to broadcast journalism, so it's much less of a challenge to push out false information online. Hopefully the News Integrity Initiative helps set the terms on what will stand and what won't.