Facebook donating $2M to local newsrooms, fact-checkers covering coronavirus

Facebook donating $2M to local newsrooms, fact-checkers covering coronavirus

Facebook announced Tuesday it is launching grant programs to boost funding for local newsrooms covering the coronavirus outbreak as well as fact-checkers who are monitoring information surrounding the illness.

The tech behemoth, which has weathered criticism for its handling of false information on its platform, announced it is partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association to award a total of $1 million in grants to local news organizations covering the outbreak in the U.S. and Canada.

It is also joining the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to launch a $1 million grant program to support fact checkers. 

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Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the platform is dedicated to keeping people informed during the virus’s rapid spread and that more tools may be unveiled to improve the flow of information to users.

“As the COVID-19 outbreak escalates, our focus has been on keeping people safe and informed by making sure everyone has accurate information, supporting global health experts and stopping misinformation,” Sandberg said in a statement.

“We want to do more,” she added. “We’re looking at additional ways to host virtual trainings – and will have more to share in the coming weeks – and we’re finding more ways to help people connect and learn to use technology through Blueprint, our free e-learning training program.

"Whatever happens next, we will be working to help businesses weather this storm.” 

The grants, which will be up to $5,000 each, will come from a pool within Facebook's Journalism Project that awards funds of up to $25,000 to local newsrooms three times per year.

The funds to reporters are meant to help with unexpected costs related to coronavirus reporting and increases in overall coverage about the coronavirus to communities. The grants for fact checkers are intended to help expand their capacities and translate fact checks to different languages, among other things.

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The announcement Tuesday is part of a broader campaign from Facebook to invest more than $100 million in grants to help 30,000 small businesses around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected nearly 200,000 people worldwide and killed almost 8,000.

Facebook reported revenue of $21 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The tech company has already made efforts to blunt the spread of misinformation among its users, including actively removing some false information and offering ad credits to the World Health Organization and the Philippines Department of Health to help promote accurate data.