Since the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has taken some real heat for the proliferation of fake news – frankly, that it wasn’t doing enough to stop it or acknowledging its damage and repercussions. I couldn’t help but agree – as a PR pro – it’s easy for me to separate reliable outlets, sources and journalists from garbage, but sadly, I’ve watched fake news spread like wildfire – even within my own personal network of family and friends.
Last week, Facebook announced the Facebook Journalism Project – and its goal of supporting news organizations to create a “healthy news ecosystem” on the site where “journalism can thrive.” The Facebook Journalism Project has several goals and components – I read through the full announcement and here’s what I found most notable for folks that work in public relations:
New Products and Storytelling Formats: Facebook is planning to connect its developers directly with it’s media partners – to create products and features that will help with both the production and consumption of news. Additionally, Facebook will be working to better understand emerging storytelling formats – making better use of Live, 360 Video and Instant Articles.
Verifying Eyewitness Sources: Facebook reports that journalists frequently turn to the site to find eyewitness video and content during breaking events. The platform is now a member of the First Draft Partner Network, “a coalition of platforms and 80+ publishers, that works together to provide practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify and publish content sourced from the social web.” In a step towards fighting the spread of fake stories, Facebook has pledged to increase commitment to First Draft and create a “virtual verification community.”
Promoting News Literacy/Dedication to Reducing Fake News: Fake news will never go away as long it’s making money – every click, share and read generates revenue for phony media sites. To combat this, Facebook has promised to support news literacy – to help its users successfully discern real and fake media on the site. Its partnership with the News Literacy Project and a promise to produce a series of consumer-focused PSAs on the topic will certainly help.
Supporting the Business Model of the Modern Newsroom: It’s not easy out there for news organizations – they are struggling with shrinking staff and dwindling subscriptions. The Facebook Journalism Project will also aim to help media partners drive readership with incentives for engaged users. In other words, Facebook will help “the cream” of the news media rise to the top.
As I’ve written before, the evolution of the modern newsroom, increased consumer reliance on social media for information and the rise of fake news will have a direct impact on the public relations industry. Specifically, we are more responsible than ever before for the quality of the content that we share with the media. We must hold ourselves accountable for the information (e.g. data, quotes etc.) we share and spokespeople that we work with. We must also work with reputable news organizations and journalists – being selective about our partners and relationships.
I’m happy to see Facebook take steps towards helping real journalism thrive on the platform – working together with reputable news outlets and organizations is an absolute step in the right direction.