Kevin Chan is the global director and head of public policy and Marc Dinsdale is the head of media partnerships at Facebook Canada.
Nellie Bly went undercover in a New York asylum in 1887 to report on inhumane treatment, prompting the institution to implement reforms. David Halberstam won a 1964 Pulitzer for his reporting on the Vietnam War, changing the world’s view of the conflict. In 2019, Connie Walker’s CBC podcast Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo brought a dark, little-known chapter of Canada’s history into mainstream consciousness and shed a light on the ongoing challenges of Indigenous child welfare.
Journalism plays an important role in seeking out the truth, telling the stories that define Canada and Canadians and holding big institutions, including ours, to account. At a time when we are reckoning with significant global issues such as racial injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic and polarizing politics, journalism is needed more than ever.
Ensuring that people have access to quality, accurate information is one vital pillar in our collective fight against misinformation. We need to support journalism to increase the amount of trustworthy information available, so that people can make educated decisions.
Another important pillar is removing potentially harmful content such as hate speech and misinformation from our platforms, as outlined in our Community Standards, while preserving as much space as possible for freedom of expression. Additionally, we leverage the work of the 60 independent fact-checking organizations that we partner with globally, including Agence France-Presse and Radio-Canada here in Canada, to reduce the spread of other types of misinformation. In April, for example, we put warning labels on about 50 million pieces of content related to COVID-19 on Facebook, based on some 7,500 articles by our independent fact-checking partners. Such warning labels dissuaded 95 per cent of people from clicking on the suspected content. We know this is merely a start – there is much more work to be done.
We want to partner with publishers in order to continue this important work. It has become clear that these challenging times are having a severely negative impact on the industry after two decades of shifting consumer behaviour, from print to online – a shift that has been deeply challenging for news organizations. That is why, over the past three years, we’ve invested almost $9-million in Canadian journalism and news innovation through grants and creative partnerships.
Our investments have focused on veteran news organizations and emerging entrepreneurs exploring innovative approaches to journalism. Through our Local News Accelerator, we gave a cohort of Canadian news organizations, including Le Soleil and the Winnipeg Free Press, access to global industry experts and provided tools, resources and training focused on digital audience development, with the goal of finding new ways to build readership and monetize their businesses – both off and on our platforms. For emerging digital-first outlets and partners such as The Discourse, Indiegraf, The Sprawl, The Narwhal and The Gist, we’ve seen how innovation leads directly to increased representation of voices heard and the quality of stories told.
Building on these investments, this week we announced a partnership with the Canadian Press to launch the Facebook-Canadian Press News Fellowship, a $1-million investment to create eight new journalism roles for one year to cover pressing issues in local communities across Canada. This program will support the news industry at a critical time, and its content is accessible to publications from coast to coast to coast, in both official languages. The aim is not only to increase capacity to cover issues of critical importance, but to also help build digital skills among this fellowship of reporters so they can contribute to new ways of attracting and engaging readers.
We believe the path forward requires publishers and platforms to work together to ensure a vibrant and rich news ecosystem. After all, publishers derive significant value through the voluntary sharing of their news content on Facebook. Our platform provides distribution that helps news organizations reach wider audiences than they could on their own, and our free publishing tools help them grow and understand their audiences, all the while maintaining control over their content. Publishers can choose to monetize through ads or paywalls, helping drive much-needed revenue for the long-term sustainability of their businesses. And we are convinced that there are still significant opportunities for partnership.
As we look to create a marketplace where Canadian news organizations can thrive, we welcome a robust discussion on the best way to work together. Our commitment and responsibility is to never shy away from this important discussion. We stand for a thriving news ecosystem and high-quality journalism, not because it is good for business but because it is good for our democracy and good for all Canadians. Facebook cannot achieve this outcome alone, which is why we need to work in good faith and in partnership across a wide range of stakeholders, including publishers, journalists, entrepreneurs and the broad policy ecosystem.
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