Facebook, tech leaders create "news integrity" nonprofit

A new consortium of tech and journalism leaders is gearing up to battle the erosion of trust in journalism. 

Facebook (FB) and Mozilla are among the companies and organizations launching a $14 million fund to promote news literacy and increase trust in journalism. The nonprofit, called the News Integrity Initiative, will be based at the City University of New York. It will run as an independent project of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

The group is forming at a time when Americans’ trust in the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” is at its lowest level since the early 1970s, according to Gallup. While consumers continue to believe the news media should keep politicians in line -- providing a “watchdog” function in public life -- they’re also more likely to view press organizations as biased, according to a Pew Research Center study published last year. 

It may be no coincidence that the distrust of the media has grown alongside the rise of so-called “fake news,” or bogus reports that are dressed up to look like articles from genuine press outlets. During the 2016 election, some fake news stories spread quickly on social media as consumers didn’t always discern that they weren’t from valid sources. BuzzFeed News concluded that fake clickbait headlines drew more readers than real articles during the last three months of campaign coverage. 

 “Improving news literacy is a global concern, and this diverse group assembled by CUNY brings together experts from around the world to work toward building more informed communities,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, in a statement.

Others contributing to the fund include Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and the Ford Foundation. CUNY said its other founders include the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, AppNexus and Betaworks.

Facebook came under fire for failing to halt the spread of fake news during the election. In December, it said it would start flagging fake news and would hire fact checkers and its users to detect false news reports.