Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg finally has a plan to tackle fake news

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Published: April 2, 2019 3:00:55 PM

The idea that Facebook would pay publishers to host their journalism on the social network has long been a dream of media executives

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg says the company is considering building a dedicated tab on the social network for news, and is willing to pay publishers for high-quality content.

It’s a change from the priorities Zuckerberg laid out last year, which focused on friends and family content in the news feed, shifting away from other types of posts. Now, he says, quality news sources could help Facebook users make more informed decisions.

“It’s important to me that we help people get trustworthy news and find solutions that help journalists around the world do their important work,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg made the comments in a discussion with Axel Springer SE CEO Mathias Doepfner, who runs the largest publisher in Europe. The social networking leader may have other reasons for adopting the new priority: the company is facing new European Union copyright rules that will require them to compensate publishers and creators for the news articles, songs and videos that appear on their website.

Over the last decade, Facebook’s news feed algorithm has emphasized content that spurs emotion and sharing — a force that shaped the news industry and gave rise to internet clickbait and misinformation, and made things harder for local news publishers who couldn’t reach enough scale to make money. Now, Facebook has been working to undo some of that damage through product changes, as well as small payments to third-party fact checkers and local news groups.

The idea that Facebook would pay publishers to host their journalism on the social network has long been a dream of media executives. News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson has called on Facebook to pay publishers the same way that a cable TV company pays to carry cable channels like ESPN or CNN. BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti has also said that Facebook should share more revenue generated by its News Feed with media outlets.

“We hope Mark’s words are followed by concrete steps towards actually creating a new business model that recognizes and compensates the work of quality journalism,” Thomson said in a statement on Monday.

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