Hamburg, February 21, 2017 – Widespread digitization of the media has given people enormous capacity to communicate, stay informed and express themselves. These new freedoms can fortify a democratic society; but they can also pose threats to it. One such threat has arrived in the form of fake, invented or sensationalist news: a phenomenon that has recently become all too common on social media. It is clear that if we do not take measures to fight the damaging and unwelcome side effects that accompany technological advances, our society risks losing the immense benefits that technology offers.
Facebook has asked German publishers, including G+J, to support an initiative to combat fake news on its social media platform. This Fact Checking Initiative will enable Facebook users to flag content as “fake news,” then, according to current indications from Facebook, participating publishers will review posted news stories for their veracity. Facebook will link the publishers’ findings to the article in question, and make the information available to all users. Gruner + Jahr naturally supports any effort that promotes open, civilized and democratic conversation in Germany; a conversation in which opinion is based on fact. It is not currently possible to assess whether or not the fact checking process is a viable way of addressing this issue. If Facebook takes its initiative seriously – and Mark Zuckerberg substantially addresses the matter of his company’s future role and collaboration with publishers – G+J is very keen to participate in conversations about collaboration. However, before that can happen, Facebook must recognize that it alone will remain responsible for what happens on its platform. Facebook must be prepared to immediately prevent the dissemination of news that has been clearly identified as untrue, but also to block any potential revenues for creators of this fake news.
Research and verification of facts are part of a publishing house’s core mission and key activities. In fact, these capabilities have become a major asset in the current climate. So it is self-evident that a fact checking partnership must also entail a business relationship.
To that end, Gruner + Jahr expects Facebook to do much more than they are currently doing to facilitate a collaborative relationship with media companies. This includes the fair sharing of revenues with content providers, as well as the recognition of shared standards in measuring the effectiveness of advertising. Moreover, the conditions governing how content is distributed on the platform need to be made transparent for content producers.
Julia Jäkel, Gruner + Jahr CEO: “We are hoping that Facebook management, led by Sheryl Sandberg, is interested in a fundamental discussion between publishers and platform providers about the future form of our collaboration, and that it acknowledges the responsibility it has. If this discussion takes place and is effective, and we can then play a part in preventing the spread of fake news, we will indeed embrace that role. We look forward to being able to explore these issues in detail.”
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