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Facebook, Twitter join effort to snuff out fake news stories

Social media giants join network of media companies and groups to improve the quality of information presented online.

A stack of newspapers, information
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Tired of being exposed to news reports you suspect have little or no factual basis? So are Twitter and Facebook.

The online social networks have joined a network of more than 30 international media companies and organizations that aims to improve the quality of information found online by weeding out hoaxes and fake news reports. The First Draft Coalition's partner network, which includes outlets such as the New York Times and CNN, is intended to train journalists in how to use the web to find and report news.

"There is a thriving community of specialists working around the world who have developed and honed social newsgathering and verification skills," Jenni Sargent, managing director of the coalition, wrote in a blog post. "With the launch of this partner network, First Draft brings these people together to work on ideas and initiatives, including a train-the-trainer programme, the launch of a collaborative verification platform, and the creation of a voluntary code of practice."

Social networks have become a popular source of news for many, trailing only TV as a top source of information, according to a report released in May by the Knight Foundation. But that growing popularity has also increased social media phony news stories.

Facebook, which is visited by more than 1.7 billion people each month, was criticized last month for promoting an erroneous news story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. The story claimed Fox News had fired Kelly for "backing Hillary," a reference to the Democratic candidate for president of the United States.

"The First Draft partner network represents an important opportunity for the news industry to work together on best practices, trainings, research and more. We're excited to help and support newsrooms that are experts in using eyewitness content," Áine Kerr, manager of journalism partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement.

Twitter said it was thrilled to be part of the network "so that we can collaboratively shape best practices, ethical guidelines and tools when it comes to discovering and verifying eyewitness media."

Updated at 6:20 p.m. PT with comments from Facebook and Twitter.