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Facebook, Mozilla and Craigslist Craig fund fake news firefighter

'News Integrity Initiative' gets US$14m to improve 'news literacy', with help from PR firms and Jimbo Wales

Facebook, Mozilla and Craig Newmark from Craigslist are among the donors behind a “News Integrity Initiative” that has given itself the mission “advance news literacy, to increase trust in journalism around the world, and to better inform the public conversation”.

Just how the Initiative will do that has not been disclosed, but it has named a list of “Early participants who will contribute to conversations, host events around the world, and bring projects and research for potential funding to the Initiative’s attention”.

Among those early participants are PR firms Edelman and Weber Shandwick, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Polis from the London School of Economics, the International Center for Journalists and Australia's Walkley Foundation.

We also know that the Initiative will operate as an independent project “led by and housed out of” the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.

Funding to the tune of $14m comes from Facebook, Mozilla, the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund and more than 20 other organisations.

Facebook's head of news partnerships Campbell Brown says the initiative will "address the problems of misinformation, disinformation and the opportunities the internet provides to inform the public conversation in new ways”.

Newmark's canned statement has him saying: “As a news consumer, like most folks, I want news we can trust. That means standing up for trustworthy news media and learning how to spot clickbait and deceptive news.”

Google and Facebook have already said they will work to stop ads they serve appearing alongside fake news. Which is a fine plan: shame Google's been found out as placing top brands' ads alongside hate speech.

And then there's the issue that not everyone wants to be news-literate. The proliferation of polarised media shows us that readers like to wallow in their own prejudices. Facebook's own research found that we then share that world-view-affirming material with friends and that The Social Network™ provides a filter bubble mostly “devoid of attitude-challenging content”.

So good luck to the News Integrity Initiative. It may well need it. ®

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