Mar 17, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Facebook funding coronavirus coverage, fact-checking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook will announce on Tuesday two new efforts to help support newsrooms and fact-checkers in efforts to promote quality information about the coronavirus.

By the numbers: Facebook will donate $1 million to local newsrooms to help them cover the crisis and $1 million to fact-checkers' efforts reviewing news coverage for virus misinformation.

Why it matters: The tech giant is trying to be proactive in how it supports the news media in times of crisis. The company has pledged over $300 million to date towards news projects over the course of three years.

Details: The Facebook Journalism Project is partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association (LMA) to offer a total of $1 million in grants to local news outlets covering the coronavirus in North America.

  • The grants will help newsrooms cover unexpected costs associated with coronavirus reporting, such as tools to help local journalists work remotely and increases in coverage to inform communities about the virus' local spread.
  • The grants are small, up to just $5,000 each, but are meant to serve as short-term relief to understaffed and under-equipped newsrooms. They come from a pool within Facebook's Journalism Project called its Community Network that gives out grants of up to $25,000 to local newsrooms 3 times per year.

Facebook is also launching a $1 million grant program to support fact-checkers during the coronavirus crisis in conjunction with Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). (Facebook already partners with fact-checkers certified by IFCN to do fact-checking.)

  • The grant will help fact-checkers increase their capacity during the coronavirus crisis and will help pay for the translation of fact checks from native languages to different languages. It will also help fact-checkers find better ways to communicate their findings to the public and work with public and health care authorities. 
  • “The fact-checking community has been working very hard, day and night, since January to point out falsehoods about the new coronavirus. Social media platforms have a responsibility to combat this type of misinformation, it is great to see that Facebook is willing to support the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance," said Cristina Tardáguila, the IFCN's Associate Director and the coordinator of the COVID-19 collaborative project, in a statement.

The bottom line: “Covering coronavirus at the local level is a struggle for many small-to mid-size publishers who are already resource-challenged,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of the Local Media Association. “These grants will go a long way to help them provide vital information to their communities."

Go deeper: Facebook steps up effort to fight coronavirus misinformation

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Facebook says it is spending $100 million to support news outlets around the world that have been impacted by the coronavirus, the company said Monday.

Why it matters: Whatever Facebook's motivation, this is a much-needed cash infusion at a critical time for the local news industry.

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Why it matters: Google wants to be proactive throughout the coronavirus crisis to support the spread of accurate and safe information.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Why it matters: Facebook's business is reliant on small businesses buying ads. The tech giant is trying to be proactive in how it supports its community in a time of crisis.

  • "We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them. We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work," Sandberg wrote.

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