The Facebook Journalism Project is an initiative to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry. Facebook is in the process of testing and introducing new content formats for publishers, is deploying training and tools for journalists, and taking measures to reduce fake news.

Live is realtime streaming of video content, similar to news shows on television. 360 is taken to mean immersive virtual reality experiences that people can consume through headsets, or using inputs to look around on flat screens. Facebook recently introduced Live 360 videos, with National Geographic being the partner. Instant articles are predominantly written content with multimedia embeds, that are served directly from Facebook itself, without redirecting to the web site of the publisher.

Facebook introduced Live 360 videos in an exclusive partnership with National Geographic. Image: Facebook
Facebook introduced Live 360 videos in an exclusive partnership with National Geographic. Image: Facebook

Live, 360, and instant articles are some of the formats for presenting news that publishers have liked so far. Facebook is introducing additional formats by testing them with select publishers. Packages of stories are being tested, where several instant news articles are presented at once. Hindustan Times and Indiatimes are Indian news organisations participating in the initial testing period. The finer details of how best this presentation should occour is being worked out. Users should start seeing packages of instant articles in their news feeds, from predominant publishers.

Facebook is collaborating with news organisations around the world to figure out exactly how several instant articles can be presented at once. One of the planned ways of doing this is to package several stories together under a cover image. Users are presented with the cover image, and when tapped, they can slide horizontally for swiping between stories, or scroll vertically to read each individual story. Facebook is looking to partner with more news organisations to develop the necessary presentation formats.

Facebook Live is getting an update where page owners can designate certain contributors to go Live from their handsets. This does not compromise the security of the page, but still allows contributors to go Live on behalf of the page. There is a plan to roll out all the features available to pages, to individual end users as well. Facebook has provided instructions on how to set up contributors that can go live on a page.

Facebook Instant Articles. Image: Facebook Media
Facebook Instant Articles. Image: Facebook Media

Journalists will be provided with feedback on how well their videos are performing, in times of views, shares and engagement. Information such as total number of followers, minutes for which the video was viewed will also be available to journalists. The video metrics information will only be available on profiles with a minimum of 5,000 followers. There is now a permalink landing page for all the video content of a page. Any user who navigates to that page will be served a live broadcast available, or the previously uploaded video content in a brand new interface.

Crossposting of Live videos have now been enabled, but the posting can only happen after the Live has been concluded. Page owners have more powerful tools to manage and present the discussion around their Lives. Publishers can choose which comments on a video deserve to be read first, and can pin these below the video. Facebook automatically picks a comment to display below the video as of now. The move offers more control to the video content creators.

Facebook is introducing whole new ways for publishers to widen their subscriber base, through the use of novel and emerging business models. Facebook is planning to push out free subscriptions to the most engaged users, from within the instant articles. Facebook is collaborating with German news organisation Bild to pilot this project. Facebook is taking steps to support local news sources and independent media houses. Directly working with the local media, Facebook is in the process of deciding how best to present these news articles.

One of the ways Facebook will make products around news ideas is workshops with the news business, where Facebook engineers will hack together new solutions based on the requirements of the news organisations. The hackathons will see the identification of new opportunities, and the development of solutions for these. Facebook says it will take inputs from journalists and news organisations, in an effort to take the project forward.

The journalists will have to be trained to use these new tools. Facebook is partnering with Poynter to introduce a certificate course for journalists. The existing training program has been expanded to nine additional languages.

Facebook is going to partner with educational institutions to provide training on site, directly at newsrooms around the world. The new features of the platform, building audiences, and distributing the content over Facebook are some of the topics already covered by Facebook e-learning courses for journalists.

Facebook is taking a number of steps to tackle the fake news problem. Measures are being taken to disrupt the financial incentives for spammers. Facebook has launched a program with third party fact checking organisations to identify hoaxes that spread on Facebook. Facebook is introducing new features to allow users to report fake news articles more easily. Facebook notes that fake news is a platform independent problem.

reporting Fake News on Facebook.
reporting Fake News on Facebook.

One of the initiatives by Facebook is working on to curb the menace of fake news is a series of public service advertisements that educate the masses on the importance of consuming news in a critical manner. The end users who spread misinformation on social networks because of their own biases are as responsible, if not more, than the publishers who seed the fake news on the platform. The public service advertisements will be made in collaboration with The News Literacy Project. Facebook has said that its long term goal is to improve news literacy with help from news organisations for new ideas to do so. Facebook has committed to providing financial backing to improve news literacy in readers, if needed.

Facebook is a member of the First Draft Partner Network, that works at formulating best practices and ethical guidelines on sourcing news stories from the social web. The network has over 80 publishers, and Facebook will be helping the network establish a virtual verification community. Journalists often encounter breaking news stories from individual users on social networking platforms, particularly the micro-blogging platform Twitter. Verifying the sources before publishing is an important step in making sure that misinformation does not spread.

Verified users will investigate and authenticate images, videos, photos and claims that have been challenged. The partner organisations will use the results of the investigations to feed their audiences. A public feed of the results of the investigations will also be available. Efforts are being made to reduce the damage to eyewitnesses who have been suddenly caught in breaking news situations. Partner networks include Twitter, AFP, The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post and Reuters.

Being made to tackle the fake news problem is a blessing in disguise for Facebook. Facebook and news organisations have to work together for mutual benefit. Facebook has an even more strong foothold in the news publishing sector now. Facebook is steadily growing beyond a social network, and has been invading culture, media, and governance.

Publish date: January 12, 2017 11:36 am| Modified date: January 12, 2017 3:04 pm

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