Facebook's 'journalism project' seeks to strengthen online news

The initiative is aimed at promoting more collaboration between the social media giant and news outlets, along with shoring up Facebook's defenses against fake news.

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Facebook wants to play a more active role in shaping how you consume news.

Loic Venance/Getty Images

Facebook is taking more responsibility over its role in the media industry.

The social network on Wednesday announced a new initiative called the Journalism Project, which seeks to put Facebook on steadier footing with the news industry. As part of the effort, the social network will work to help train journalists on how to use Facebook as a reporting tool and assist the public in figuring out how to sniff out misinformation.

"We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news," Fidji Simo, director of product for the project, wrote in a blog post. "And as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive."

The initiative is part of an about-face for Facebook, which for a long time shrugged off its influence on the news and downplayed the impact of misinformation circulated on Facebook on the 2016 presidential election. The company is now acknowledging the significant role it plays in the consumption of news online, along with its ability to shape journalism's future.

The project is also in part an olive branch from Facebook to the media industry, which has reeled as news has moved from print to the internet. A big part of that upheaval has been Facebook, with its massive influence in distributing news to its 1.79 billion monthly visitors. Facebook's ever-changing algorithms play a large role in what people see on the social network, and therefore affect news outlets' viewership and revenue.

The social media giant's project has three aspects. First is the development of news "products" between Facebook and media outlets, such as new storytelling formats. Facebook also offered the example of a German media outlet that developed a free subscription trial period for Facebook users.

Next is a plan to offer tools and "best practices" training to journalists. This includes collaborations with the Knight Foundation, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and the Institute for Nonprofit News. In addition, a Facebook-owned tool called CrowdTangle, which measures social performance, will now be free to Facebook's media partners.

The final focus is on Facebook's readers, with an emphasis on promoting media literacy. Facebook pointed to new tools designed to make it easier to report bogus news stories, along with its efforts to remove financial incentives that motivate spamming, and a collaboration with third-party fact-checking groups to help identify hoaxes.

The Journalism Project is only the latest move Facebook has made to try to ease tensions with the news media. Last week, the social network hired former CNN anchor Campbell Brown to be its head of news partnerships. In the role, she's meant to be a liaison who helps media outlets work more effectively with Facebook.

This story was first published Jan. 11 at 9:30 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:18 a.m.:
Adds context throughout.

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