Facebook is to open three ‘training’ centres across Europe. The aim is to train a million people and business owners in digital skills by 2020 after voicing concerns over the level of digital skill training and fake news across Europe.
Last year Facebook opened its biggest engineering hub outside of the US in London UK, creating 800 new jobs. By the end of 2018 it will employ 2,300.
Facebook says it “couldn’t be sending a stronger message regarding our commitment to the UK and our confidence in the talent that will safeguard the city’s future as a leading tech hub”.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, told Reuters, ‘people are worried that the digital revolution is leaving people behind and we want to make sure that we’re investing in digital skills to get people the skills they need to participate in the digital economy.’
The new community skills hubs are to open in Spain, Italy and Poland. The plan is to include young and old alike and refugees and to teach media literacy, digital skills and online safety to those with limited access to technology.
Facebook will also invest $12.2 million in an AI (artificial intelligence) research facility in France.
Sandberg said: ‘Absolutely we want to make sure that people see that we are investing locally, we’re investing in technology, we’re investing in humans.’
Facebook has been dealing with criticism over the way it handled fake news during the 2016 US presidential election and also the 2016 UK Brexit referendum. They recently changed the way the News Feed works so that users would see less from brands and more from their own friend’s feeds. The head of Facebook’s News Feed said it was “to make sure the news people see, while less overall, is high quality.”
With recent revelations of fake news being generated in eastern European countries such as Macedonia amongst others, teaching Europeans media literacy and digital skills should go some way to redeeming Facebook from its fake news persona. But, it will probably take more than this for Facebook to shake off its fake news image across the world.
Trust in news from social media is at an all-time low in the US. According to the Pew Research Centre, only 5%of US adults have a lot of trust in the information they get from social media. Around 32% say they often see made-up political news online.
In the US, the company is prioritising news from so called trusted sources, from publications that the Facebook community deems as trustworthy. Given the low trust figures in the US this could be a good thing although some believe it could give Facebook problems over how to decide which publications can be deemed ‘trustworthy’. Some are wondering what the criteria might be for the this and whether precedence could be given depending on how much a publisher’s ad spend may be on the platform.
Who decides, after all, maybe we should remember the US president Trump’s campaign against mainstream media sources, such as The New York Times and CNN, labelling them as “failing” and “fake news”. Will Facebook come out against the President and pronounce them ‘trustworthy?’