Facebook teams up with Reuters to offer crash course on fake news

Oh, the irony.

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According to Axios, Facebook is funding a free course for journalists which will teach them to spot manipulated media and deepfakes, among other forms of misinformation.

The endeavor, which is reported to have cost the company "six figures", is part of the Facebook Journalism Project and has been created by Reuters, which is one of the world’s most powerful multimedia news agencies. The course is free for journalists and will come in different languages, including French, Spanish, Arabic, and English. Facebook expects to broaden the material in other languages, including Hebrew, Hindi, German, Turkish, and more.

Saving face — It's an interesting move considering some of Facebook's choices in the recent past; the company, for example, defended its decision to keep up a heavily edited clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as a deepfake of Mark Zuckerberg himself. While it's definitely a good education opportunity, it’s also very possible that the company is just trying to redeem its image after a string of controversies.

Facebook’s news classroom — Designed like a typical course, journalists around the world will have 45 minutes to complete the free material, according to Axios. In 2020, Reuters will collaborate with Facebook and run events for the year to help reporters better understand how pictures, videos, and other media can be manipulated by bad actors to create their own narrative. There seems to be a special emphasis on deepfakes, or AI-doctored video clips that often look unnervingly real.

The purpose of this course — Hazel Baker, who spearheads user-generated content news curation at Reuters, told Axios, "Ninety percent of manipulated media we see online is real video taken out of context used to feed a different narrative. Sometimes it's edited, but often it's not.” Tackling that sort of misinformation, Baker told Axios, was an “important starting point.”

Slight contradiction in the mix — No matter how well-funded and supported by powerful news institutions the effort may be, these courses seem contradictory, if not useless as long as Facebook's own issues remain unsolved. That includes its lax content moderation policy.