Facebook and Twitter are tired of people using their social media platforms to spread what they believe is false information and low-quality news, so they’ve joined with a number of global news organizations to “improve” the quality of the news content they offer.
The project, called First Draft, is backed by Google and Google Labs, and will offer information on “best practices for journalism in the online age,” developed with a carefully curated group of partner sites.
Unsurprisingly, those “news sources,” on which Google, Facebook and Twitter are relying on to filter out supposedly dishonest or untrustworthy news content, are almost exclusively left-leaning.
According to Agence France-Presse, one of the primary partner organizations, the group includes “Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, The New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, CNN, ABC News of Australia, ProPublica, AFP, The Telegraph, France Info, Breaking News, Le Monde’s Les Decodeurs, International Business Times UK, Eurovision News Exchange and Al Jazeera Media Network.”
It’s not entirely clear what “false” information this new First Draft organization means to screen out, but the announcement comes at a time when many of First Draft’s partner organizations have been decrying what they see as the media’s failure to “fact check” statements by Donald Trump.
Jenni Sargent who heads the First Draft project told AFP, “Filtering out false information can be hard. Even if news organizations only share fact-checked and verified stories, everyone is a publisher and a potential source…We are not going to solve these problems overnight, but we’re certainly not going to solve them as individual organizations.”
Google is likely to insist that this is just a project to help journalists better prepare for an online audience, and to help social media users find the most trustworthy news sources on the web, but Google, Facebook and Twitter’s history with filtering news shows they are far from credible moderators.
The announcement comes on the heels of months of controversy involving Facebook’s filtering of news content, and allegations that political bias against conservative news outlets ran rampant through Facebook’s “trending topics” operation. And on Friday, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz (who’s no longer with the company) announced that he and his wife are donating $20 million to Democratic groups in an effort to stop Trump.
Twitter has faced similar problems, with conservatives asserting that Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council” is stacked with social justice warriors and progressive activists, looking to turn the social network into a safe space, free from non-liberal opinions.
Just this week, both Facebook and Twitter faced criticism over what appeared to be evidence that both social networks censored stories about Hillary Clinton’s Sunday “medical episode.” Despite almost universal media coverage, the story did not appear in either Facebook or Twitter’s “trending topics.”
Google itself, the driving force behind the First Draft project, is openly left leaning. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and its former CEO Eric Schmidt, have been working alongside Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign as a product development arm, and Google itself has extensive financial ties to the Democratic Party.
Most recently, Google faced allegations of search manipulation and search bias, changing how (and whether) users found information on the Clinton Foundation and its ties to the Department of State.