One of the biggest talking points from the 2016 US presidential election is the prominent role that fake news played in skewing public views about the candidates. Social networks such as Facebook saw a number of posts that were patently untrue spread like wildfire as they got likes and shares, driven in part by claims that mainstream media were actively suppressing and censoring negative stories because of a perceived bias against one candidate or for another.
To combat this, Facebook has launched a project that seeks to establish stronger ties between the social network and the news industry, by collaborating with news organizations and publishers to 'equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age'.
The Facebook Journalism Project will collaborate with news organizations and content developers to change how news content is presented on the social network. This will be done through new storytelling formats on Facebook's existing platforms, most notably — Live, 360, and Instant Articles — to better suit the readers' needs.
The project will also put more focus on local news, so that readers do not have to go elsewhere to get news that's relevant to where they are.
Facebook is also working on ways to better monetize news content, exploring options such as ads within live videos, and ad breaks in regular videos.
For journalists, Facebook has a number of e-learning courses for journalists on how to better use their products, tools and services, as well as a certificate curriculum for journalists in partnership with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Eyewitnesses who upload videos and images during breaking news events have become powerful and important sources for journalists, and to lend credibility to this new form of reporting, the First Draft Partner Network is working to provide practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify and publish content sourced from the social web.
Ultimately, the choice of what to do with whatever information pops up on Facebook, whether to ignore, share, or report it, lies with Facebook's users. In order to drive meaningful conversations about the stories that they encounter online, Facebook has announced improvements aimed at further reducing the spread of news hoaxes — including ways for people to report them more easily and new efforts to disrupt the financial incentives for spammers.
These moves show that Facebook is taking its role as a distribution platform for news more seriously. It's a more hands-on approach, compared to the more technical solutions to the fake news problem that it has rolled out before, including an option to flag fake news posts.
As Facebook actively takes on a bigger role in news publishing beyond merely serving as a conduit, it is paramount that they put measures in place to make sure that their content is legit, considering how much faster fake news can spread compared to true stories. The Facebook Journalism Project could make the social network a much saner place to get your daily update on what's going on around you.