Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada tweeted ‘I think we can stop prefacing sentences with “in this new digital age…” and just say “today”‘. This really struck a chord because ‘digital age’ is a phrase I use all too frequently when introducing the work we do at First Draft, and explaining why it is so important. But really I should just say ‘today’.
Today, news breaks online. Today, the first images to emerge from a breaking news event have been captured by an eyewitness. Today, injustices that may never have been reported become global news stories because a bystander reached for their smartphone. Today, malicious hoaxes and fake news reports are published in increasingly convincing and sophisticated ways.
We live in a time when trust and truth are issues that all newsrooms, and increasingly the social platforms themselves, are facing. In July, the Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner wrote about the ways technology is disrupting the truth, explaining “in the news feed on your phone, all stories look the same – whether they come from a credible source or not.” Filtering out false information can be hard. Even if news organisations only share fact-checked and verified stories, everyone is a publisher and a potential source.
We are not going to solve these problems over night, but we’re certainly not going to solve them as individual organisations.
There is a thriving community of specialists working around the world who have developed and honed social newsgathering and verification skills. These include journalists, human rights investigators and academics. There are also teams working within the social networks who have themselves come from newsrooms and understand the challenges of finding, verifying and reporting stories that emerge online. With the launch of this partner network, First Draft brings these people together to work on ideas and initiatives, including a train-the-trainer programme, the launch of a collaborative verification platform, and the creation of a voluntary code of practice.
This network will also create a feedback loop for representatives from each social media platform to connect with journalists and develop ideas for ways to streamline the verification process, improve the experience of eyewitnesses and increase news literacy amongst social media users.
Each partner is committed to sharing knowledge, developing policies and devising training in how journalists use the social web to find and report news. Confirmed partners include: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, CNN, ABC News (Australia), AJ+, ProPublica, Agence France-Presse, Channel 4 News, The Telegraph, France Info, Breaking News, Les Décodeurs, International Business Times UK, Eurovision News Exchange Newsroom, SAM, Aljazeera Media Network, Reveal project, InVID project, Euronews, Sourcefabric, WITNESS, Amnesty International, European Journalism Centre, American Press Institute, International Fact Checking Network, Duke Reporters’ Lab.
The First Draft Coalition formed in June 2015 with support from Google News Lab. In the past year, founding members Bellingcat, Dig Deeper Media, Emergent, Storyful, Reportedly, Meedan, Verification Junkie and Eyewitness Media Hub have worked together to raise awareness and standards around the use of newsworthy information and eyewitness media sourced from the social web. We have all recognised the value of collaboration in tackling these important issues and are proud and excited to launch this expansion today.