"Facebook is engaging with publishers in India to understand quality journalism"

Campbell Brown, Head - News Partnerships, Facebook, spoke about reducing fake news and their participation with organizations to address news literacy in India at an event in Delhi

Facebook announced that it would invest an additional $4.5 million in programs to support news publishers. It has extended its initiative to help metro news publishers grow their digital subscriber base and provide supporters with exclusive content. Facebook is also introducing a new 3-month pilot program for non-profit news organizations and local publishers with membership models. Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships at Facebook spoke to exchange4media about Facebook’s plans towards strengthening its work and partnership around news literacy in India.

Discussing what it took to bridge the trust deficit gap between Silicon Valley and news publishers across the globe, Brown said, “The tech side of the company surely understands what publishers need. The team at Facebook is now bringing in people who have experience in media to understand publishers better. This helps to have an impact on the product and work more closely and efficiently with publishers from all around.”

Commenting on down ranking of news in the news feed on Facebook, Brown said that the blue app would be optimizing “meaningful social interactions” between friends and family as opposed to just engagement to avoid the above. “Facebook is and will always be about connecting friends and family first. Recently, many news posts were overcrowding interactions from our friends and family so in order to have a check on it the news content was reduced relatively. We are now trying to change the ratio of the kind of news that is user highlighted. We are engaging with publishers even in India to understand not only how to define quality Journalism but also to boost it. We are beginning to engage more with local news publishers as well”, claims Brown.

With India now having the highest number of Facebook users Brown spoke of methods that the tech giant was adopting to enhance product innovation in India. She said, “The news projects fall under the umbrella of Facebook channels and we are working closely with publishers to achieve exactly this. Facebook is focusing on 3 pillars that define our work. First being collaborative product development followed by tools and training for journalists and thirdly, tools and training for people. This is making major investments around news in digital literacy and also teaching users how to discern among different sources of news.”

When asked whether Facebook was involving publishers and journalists from India in the conversation, Brown said, “I am here to interact and get feedback from publishers and journalists directly as my team wants to engage with them a lot more. India is our biggest market and so we want to make sure that we communicate a lot to reach a point where we can be as transparent as possible.”

Curbing Fake News

Facebook has made it easier for all to have access to news. But was it a better platform relatively that had less fake news? Discussing the issue of fake news Brown said, “We have expanded our fight against fake news to almost 14 countries now. Most of the false news is financially motivated and we are keeping a check on it by taking away the financial incentives for those who create such content. We have become much better in identifying fake accounts, fake news and also there are teams now to check on Election integrity solely. Facebook has partnerships with many publishers and fact checking organizations to curb the distribution of false news.”

Commenting on how different Facebook’s campaign would be for the upcoming Elections in India, Brown said that the tech giant was hiring teams to focus solely on this in a different way. Facebook was focusing on this as well as privacy concerns, data security of individuals with utmost priority.

In an effort to curb the spread of fake news on its platform and provide high-quality journalism in India Brown also said that they had partnered up with Chennai based Asian School of Journalism. The new partnership would also offer scholarship program at ACJ.

New feature, soon in India

Those looking out for exclusive video content on Facebook in India will be happy to know that Facebook’s Watch tab, a video only surface feature will be soon launched in India as well. Brown said, “We have recently added a news section to the app where we are paying a diverse set of publishers to produce creative content for our users. This is coming to India very soon. We are working with news publishers to build a consensus around the kind of signals that will work in future and that could define quality news.”

Tracking WhatsApp

Commenting on Facebook’s operational relationship with WhatsApp Campbell said that WhatsApp, Instagram and Messgenger were part of Facebook’s family. While news publishers don’t engage much with WhatsApp, fake news is of major concern when one talks about Watsapp. “There have certainly been some product changes to address the challenges but due to its encryption code it remains difficult. One of the changes dictates how a user can only forward 1 piece of content 5 times and not more than that. Also, the ‘forward’ feature on WhatsApp gives the reader some visibility as to what sort of content he is looking at,” said Brown.

“WhatsApp was created with the intent of maintaining privacy. But it’s now a challenge for media, government and people to track down fake news. Hence, digital literacy pieces and media to a large extent need to educate people to be skeptical regarding each and every content that they come across,” concluded Brown at an event moderated by Anant Goenka, Executive Director, Indian Express in Delhi For more updates, be socially connected with us on
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