Facebook Canada has launched a Local News Accelerator that aims to support Canadian news organizations.
As part of the launch, Facebook has invested $2.5 million CAD into the program. According to the company, the Local News Accelerator “will be built with a Canada-first lens” and is intended to “address the unique challenges that local news publishers face.”
Currently, the program will develop digital strategies alongside 10-15 news organizations and provide each of them with grant funding to implement these solutions.
Facebook’s Local News Accelerator comes amid increasing concerns over the spread of fake news on the internet. A recent study from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) found that 70 percent of Canadians are concerned that fake news could impact elections in Canada. This follows a June 2017 report from Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agency warning that it is “very likely” that hackers will try to influence Canada’s 2019 federal election.
Throughout all of this, Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for being a platform through which users can share misinformation. The social network revealed in September 2017 that Russian operatives shared roughly 80,000 inflammatory posts focused on race, immigration and LGBT rights leading up to the November 2016 U.S. presidential election. In January 2018, the company acknowledged that its role in the sharing of these ads and other fake news stories can sometimes be damaging to the democratic process.
To help prevent this, Facebook has rolled out various initiatives over time that aim to combat fake news and support legitimate news organizations. In October 2017, the company teamed up with digital literacy company Media Smarts to better support politicians in maintaining online safety. The company also worked with politicians ahead of Ontario’s June 2018 provincial election to help them secure and verify digital information.
As part of its elections integrity efforts, Facebook also launched a fact-checking program last June that uses third-party agents to add context to stories or crack down on fake news posts when necessary.