Thank you very much.
Madam Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, thank you for this additional opportunity to present our views as part of your study of the media and local communities.
As most of you already know, my name is Kevin Chan and I am the head of public policy for Facebook Canada. With me again today is my colleague, Marc Dinsdale, the head of media partnerships in Canada.
Since we last appeared before the standing committee in November, we have made some important announcements in our early efforts to address fake news. I am pleased to share today with the committee our progress in this area.
As Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and CEO, recently wrote:
Giving everyone a voice increases diversity of perspectives, but there is more we can do to build a shared perspective—to reduce polarization, sensationalism and misinformation.
I am pleased to report that we are hard at work putting together initiatives and partnerships that we believe will address this issue here in our country.
On December 15 last year we announced work in a few key areas to fight fake news. Facebook strongly believes in giving people a voice and believes that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves. We are thus approaching this problem carefully, launching tests and learning from our experiences. We will iterate and extend them over time. We have focused our immediate efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third-party organizations.
Our areas of work consist of the following.
First is easier reporting. We are testing ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right-hand corner of a post. We have relied heavily on our community to report problematic content in other areas and we hope that reporting can also help us detect more fake news.
Second is flagging stories as disputed. We believe that providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share. We have started a program to work with third-party fact-checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter's international fact-checking network's code of principles, including ABC News, The Washington Post, and Snopes.com in the United States.
We use the reports from our community to send stories to these organizations. If the fact-checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will be flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed will also appear lower in news feeds. Once flagged, these stories will come with a prominent warning label indicating that the story has been disputed and cannot be made into an ad and promoted.
Third is disrupting financial incentives for spammers. We have found that much fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make big money by masquerading as well-known news organizations and posting hoaxes that get people to visit their sites, which are often mostly ads.
We are doing several things to reduce the financial incentives. We have eliminated the ability to spoof domains—that is, the ability to pretend to be a legitimate website—which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. Our advertising policy also makes clear that fake news sites are barred from using Facebook ads. We are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
I would like to now talk a bit about the Facebook journalism project. As we take steps to address fake news on our platform, we also recognize that we need to be working even more closely with the news industry. We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, and we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive.
That is why we announced last month the launch of the Facebook journalism project, a continuation of the work that my colleague Marc Dinsdale is already doing with news publishers across the country, collaborating with news organizations to develop news products, to learn from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and to work with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age. I will expand on each of these areas in turn.
First, on collaborative development of news products, we can better serve the needs of people on Facebook and those of our partners when we work together to develop products. While we have worked with our news partners on this in the past, as part of the Facebook journalism project we will begin an even deeper collaboration with news organizations, connecting our product and engineering teams so that we can build together from the early stages of the product development process, evolving beyond Facebook Live, Facebook 360, and Instant Articles to even better address the needs of journalists.
Honourable members, you were briefed on these three products when we first appeared in November.
We also want to explore ways in which we can support and strengthen local news on Facebook, as well as emerging business models in an Internet age. Most importantly, we want to engage in regular meetings with the media and publishing partners to listen and learn from them. We will be launching a series of listening round tables with news organizations later this spring.
Second is training and tools for journalists. In addition to the newsroom training we currently offer, we are conducting a series of e-learning courses on Facebook products, tools, and services for journalists. We also recently acquired CrowdTangle, a popular tool among journalists to surface stories, measure their social performance, and identify influencers on different social media platforms. Last month we announced that CrowdTangle would become a free service for all of our media partners.
Third is training and tools for everyone. As we seek to support journalism, we will also be working on new ways to help give people information so they can make smart choices about the news they read and have meaningful conversations about what they care about. Some of this we will do in direct partnership with journalists. At other points we will work with educators and researchers. Initially, our main area of focus will be promoting news literacy by working with third-party organizations on how to better understand and promote news literacy both on and off our platform to help people in our community have the information they need to make decisions about which sources to trust.
We will help organizations already doing important work in this area and bring a consortium of experts together to help decide what new research to conduct and which projects to fund. In the short term we are working with the News Literacy Project to produce a series of public service ads to help inform people on Facebook about this important issue. Our longer term goal is to support news organizations with projects and ideas aimed at improving news literacy, including with financial grants where needed.
Next month we are partnering with the Walter Cronkite school of journalism and mass communication at Arizona State University to convene a news literacy working group, bringing together top media thinkers and practitioners for a two-day, action-oriented meeting to review past news literacy research, identify new research questions, and assess projects for possible funding. I am proud that our news literacy working group will include distinguished Canadian journalist, Catherine Cano, president and general manager of the Cable Public Affairs Channel, or CPAC.
For more than a year now, people in Canada have been able to report a story is fake. Now we are engaged in preliminary conversations with potential media partners to see if we can bring our fact-checking initiative to Canada so Canadians can see which stories independent third parties have disputed. At this early stage in the process, we believe that our partnership with news publishers in Canada should be editorially unbiased and neutral, national in scope, and operate in both official languages. We would welcome feedback from the standing committee on these core principles.