Facebook Goes Myth Busting

Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab
Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab
Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab

BusinessWire, PR Newswire, PR Web and Facebook—one of these seems oddly out of place. But the social media network, which now has more members than India has people, has launched FB Newswire. In a marriage of old and new media, Facebook has partnered with News Corp-owned Storyful to try and make it easier for journalists to find, share and embed newsworthy content from Facebook. The idea being that Storyful will help Facebook verify news and thus debunk false stories, or as News Corp eloquently puts it, separate the “substantial from the superficial and the real from the fake.”

This is certainly a huge step in the right direction. Social media allows news to spread faster than ever before, but that speed often comes at the expense of fact-checking. And in many cases, it often seems that the bigger the story, the greater the desire people have to be first on their soapbox. The Boston Marathon tragedy and Super Storm Sandy are perfect examples of how social media can quickly spread misinformation.

The announcement comes at an interesting time. The recently published 2014 Pew Research State of the News Media survey provided a fascinating summary of the intersection between social media and news, which among other nuggets highlighted that about 30% of U.S. adults get some news from Facebook. That dwarfs the numbers from any other social media site – YouTube (10%), Twitter (8%), Google + (4%), LinkedIn (3%) – and means that if Facebook can in fact bust myths before they start, it could significantly reduce the spread of false news across the Internet.

And when looking at Facebook from a PR and marketing viewpoint, this partnership adds to an interesting couple of months. There was the small matter of a $16 billion acquisition and then a lot of talk about the end of the Free Lunch when Facebook tweaked its algorithm to reduce the reach of organic posts by brands. Then of course Facebook blew out Wall Street’s expectations, showing it is clearly adapting to the mobile world and using a combination of existing and new brands to engage an even broader audience. And now we have a move to make news more reliable and trustworthy on social networks.

There’s a lot to Like about where Facebook is going. We’ll be sure to watch out for what’s next at tomorrow’s f8 Developer Conference.