Tech giant and universities are teaming up to take on fake news in a new partnership named The News Integrity Initiative.

Facebook is one of the heavy hitters behind the organisation, alongside Mozilla and the Ford Foundation, which have collectively pledged $14m to encourage news literacy to combat the spread of fake news online.

The new initiative will be based at the City University of New York’s journalism school (CUNY), which will coordinate research, projects and events. As well as advancing news literacy, the initiative’s mission is also to increase trust in journalism around the world and to better inform the public conversation.

Fake news, spread through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, was rife throughout the US election. In addition, tech companies including Mark Zuckerberg’s platform and Google have been accused of financially benefiting from the spread of false information online.

Since the US presidential election last November, tech companies have vowed to tackle misinformation. Writing in a blog post about Facebook’s new approach to fake news, Zuckerberg said:

I worry about these and we have studied them extensively, but I also worry there are even more powerful effects we must mitigate around sensationalism and polarisation leading to a loss of common understanding.”

The initiative seems to be the first step on the journey to preventing the spread of false information. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, said:

As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we want to give people the tools necessary to be discerning about the information they see online. Improving news literacy is a global concern, and this diverse group assembled by CUNY brings together experts from around the world to work toward building more informed communities.”

As well as handling news literacy, improving the US population’s trust in journalism will be no easy feat.

Last year, a poll by Gallup reported that Americans’ trust in mass media had fallen by eight points, down from 40 percent to 32 percent. This will no doubt be lower now thanks to president Donald Trump’s attempts to de-legitimise the press, in particular, the New York Times, at every opportunity.

Dan Gillmor, professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, one of the colleges involved with the project said that now more than ever is an important time to defend the press.

Today’s announcement sends a strong signal that news literacy matters. We can’t upgrade only just the supply of news. We need to upgrade ourselves, to become better, more active media users, as consumers and creators,” said Gillmor.

 

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