Facebook has announced it will invest $300 million in news programmes, partnerships and content in a bid to combat fake news and support local news organisations.

The social media platform’s three-year commitment will provide funds for not-for-profit organisations including the Pulitzer Centre, American Journalism Project and the UK’s Community News Project among others.

Fighting fake news: Facebook

Fighting fake news: Facebook

Source: Shutterstock / tuthelens

Facebook Vice President of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown wrote in a blog post yesterday: “News is a key part of Facebook’s mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

“We’re going to continue fighting fake news, misinformation, and low quality news on Facebook. But we also have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to help local news organisations grow and thrive.

“We know we can’t do it alone, but there is more we can and will do to help.”

The two key areas Facebook hopes to drive with its $300 million funding investments is to support local journalists and newsrooms with their newsgathering needs in the immediate future and help local news organisations build sustainable business models, through both product and partnership work.

Brown added: “Over time, we think this work can have the added benefit of fostering civic engagement, which research suggests is directly correlated with people’s reading of local news.”

Last year, Facebook worked to “better understand what kind of news people wanted to see on Facebook,” according to Brown, which pointed executives to expand its effort to inform users and support its partners on making a “real impact”.

The move comes after traditional news publications and local newspapers globally have struggled to adjust to the digital-first landscape, with dominating social media platforms becoming the favourite among users and Facebook criticised for its role in the decline in traditional news advertising revenue.

Those organisations benefiting from the funding include:

  • Pulitzer Centre with $5 million to support 12 local in-depth multimedia reporting projects plus related community outreach.
  • American Journalism Project in its first enterprise to grow and sustain local civic news organisations through venture philanthropy.
  • Community News Project with $6 million to help partner some of the UK’s biggest regional publishers to recruit trainee community journalists and place them for two-years in local newsrooms, a Facebook initiative launched November last year.
  • Report for America’s initiative to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the US in the next five years with $2 million investment from Facebook.
  • Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund will receive $1 million dedicated a technology hub created to help evaluate and improve newsgathering, product development and sustainable business models foe US-based newsrooms.
  • Local Media Association (LMA) and Local Media Consortium (LMC) will gain $1 million across the two organisations to help more than 2,000 US local member newsrooms better understand, develop and implement revenue streams through branded content both on and off Facebook.

Facebook has also been repeatedly criticised in recent years for lacking accountability in its role in fake news campaigns, particularly in relation to the sharing of user data and Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Amidst new security regulations and following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year, Facebook shares dropped 20% and wiped out close to $130 billion in its market value.

Last June, Facebook funded news-focused programming from multiple networks including ABC News, CNN, Fox News, Univision and ATTN for its Watch platform.

The initiative was part of an effort to stop the spread of fake news on the platform, which became a subject of conversation during the 2016 election when thousands of Russian-backed ads appeared on the platform.

In addition to its investment in news, partnerships and content it announced the expansion of its Accelerator pilot which was launched in the US in 2018, “to help local newsrooms with subscription and membership models.”

Brown explained: “This year, we’ll commit over $20 million to continue the local Accelerator in the United States and to expand the model globally, including in Europe.

“This is among the first investments we’ll be making to support local news organisations and we will continue to look for partnership opportunities as we build out our teams internationally.”

Millennials and Gen Z favour Facebook over YouTube
Facebook beats YouTube as most popular video news source for Millennials and Gen Z according to a study by Wibbitz published yesterday, it found Facebook as the go-to platform for news coverage among the 1,000 US citizens surveyed aged between 18 and 37 during November last year.

The results support Facebook’s move into increased investment in news content.

According to the study published by Wibbitz on Tuesday, Facebook was the top choice 30% of Gen Z respondents and 56% of Millennials ranked Facebook as their top choice for watching news coverage with only 27% and 22% respectively for YouTube.

The research concluded social video ads on mobile devices are key for reaching younger adults, with 90% of Generation Z and 83% of millennials spending at least one hour a day watching videos on their smartphones.