Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is among several organizations that will contribute $14 million to help “people make informed judgments about the news they read and share online.” The News Integrity Initiative also will be backed by the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks. It will be based at The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
In a period plagued by “fake news,” much of it distributed via social media, the effort is a very modest reaction to a problem that has vexed the mainstream media, particularly during and after the presidential election. A huge portion of the online population gets information from Facebook, which has become what is perhaps the largest media distributor in the United States.
Fake News is described by the Urban Dictionary as follows:
A term formerly useful for describing websites consisting entirely of intentionally fabricated news stories, but now used to describe virtually anything that does not mesh with one’s own views.
About media distribution over social media, Pew reported last year:
Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases.
Facebook currently has more than 1.8 billion users.
As part of the announcement of the News Integrity Initiative, its founders described it as:
… a global consortium focused on helping people make informed judgments about the news they read and share online. The Initiative’s mission is to advance news literacy, to increase trust in journalism around the world, and to better inform the public conversation. The Initiative will fund applied research and projects, and convene meetings with industry experts.
Given the extent of the problem, not just in the United States, but around the world, $14 million is not very much.