Hewlett Foundation Invests $10 Million To Combat Fake News

Earlier this year, when the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer was released, Facebook was in the midst of controversy surrounding fake news published on its platform during the 2016 election. Since then, even more controversy has embroiled the site.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which polled people from 28 countries, asking about trust in news media, where individuals got their news  and how they viewed the various platforms. It found that people were less likely than in previous years to trust information posted on social-media platforms.

Some 59% of respondents reported it was becoming more difficult to trust whether news was coming from a respected outlet; nearly seven in 10 were worried about the spread of fake news and its use as a weapon. 



However, there was one surprising result: Respondents in the U.S. actually trust journalism more. It’s the platforms they’ve lost faith in.

Reported by CBS News, Richard Edelman, the company's president and CEO, stated: "About half the people in the United States are still involved in mainstream media, but the other half are totally relying on search and social — and that means what their friends are experiencing or whatever somebody posts.

"The lack of a center here is really the problem and everybody is going with reinforcing their own views."

Yesterday, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced it would tackle the issue of fake news and the spread of disinformation by targeting the social platforms with an injection of $10 million in funding over the next two years.

The funding allows researchers to explore key three areas.

First, it will focus on understanding the problem of fake news across social-media platforms through an examination of where the disinformation originates, how it is spread and what the ultimate impact is on those who digest it, including the effects on an individual’s political position.

Second, the effort will explore issues of free speech and privacy, and the legal and technical boundaries surrounding them. That includes the role of government agencies, such as the FTC and FCC becoming involved in regulation.

Third, the effort will look at solutions “by testing what actions can reduce disinformation's negative impact on individuals or how high-quality content can be elevated,” per the foundation.

Hewlett Program Officer Kelly Born states: "Some philanthropies are intervening 'upstream' to improve journalism and create high-quality content, while others are working 'downstream' on citizen-facing efforts, like fact-checking and news literacy.

"Our funding will focus 'midstream,' where widely trusted gatekeepers have been replaced by a wild west of voices active on social-media platforms, from experts and friends to conspiracy theorists, foreign adversaries and others who can now use bots, micro-targeting and other techniques to amplify polarizing, distorted content," she adds.

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