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News agencies get new task of curbing fake news


Facebook for example have hired AFP’s services to debunk fake news.

Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent

DUBAI: News agencies are no more gatekeepers of news and its client base has changed from traditional media houses to current day news carriers – the social media agencies and Big Tech companies, said Fabrice Fries, Chairman and CEO of Agence France-Presse (AFP).

 Speaking on ‘The Future of News Agencies’ at the 18th Arab Media Forum (AMF 2019) on Wednesday, he said that news agencies are no more the original source of news. The big tech companies have changed the game with regard to breaking news and forced traditional media to alter their own ways of doing business.

 “Big tech has empowered each of us. The role of news agencies is being transformed. We lost our role of gatekeepers, but increased our role as verifiers,” said Fries.

 “The content structure is also changing. Today there is a huge appetite for images when it comes to news consumption. At AFP, we happen to be very strong with images and we are investing massively into videos,” he said.

 “Recently, when the Prime Minister of New Zealand was photographed wearing a veil and hugging a Muslim, that was a very powerful image which, in itself, told the story. Video is also getting us new clients,” he added.

 Meanwhile, amidst constant propagation of fake news, social and digital media agencies are faced with the daunting task of differentiating between genuine and fake news.

 “The nature of our clientele is also changing. We had one client category – the press, which is suffering. Today the clients are big tech,” he said.

 Facebook for example has hired AFP’s services to debunk fake news. “The best way to fight against fake news is to debunk them. One needs to be trained in digital techniques. Those who are involved in fact checking are traditional journalists who are being trained to be experts in fact checking,” he said, adding that it is not just the role of the news agency but also that of the journalist itself that is being transformed.

 “Our journalists do the fact check. Once that is complete, we see a message beside the news that the story has been fact-checked by AFP. If the story is different, we see a message saying AFP has a different version of the story. If the story is fake, we notify that the story is fake and if someone likes or shares a fake story, it reminds the person who is liking or forwarding the story that they are doing so with a fake story,” said Fries, explaining the process that could help reduce the propagation of fake news.

 The changing roles of traditional media and the emergence of big tech has also had an impact on revenue streams.

 According to Fries, news agencies across the world are suffering and those adapting to new ways are evolving. “We have about 200 bureaus and 2,500 journalists with about 250 of them operating in the Middle East. We are opening new offices. The last office was in North Korea in Pyongyang,” he said.

 Commenting on the new copyright law that was passed by the European Union on Tuesday, he said, it could help the press get much needed revenue. “Every time the big tech firms use new content, we get revenue, and the press clients can generate new revenues. The four big tech firms are not happy,” he said.

 A new law passed by the European Union dubbed a ‘link tax’ requires technology solutions such as search engines, social media platforms and aggregation websites to share their revenue with publishers if their content is displayed.

The 18th edition of the ARAB Media Forum, AMF, kicked off yesterday at Dubai World Trade Centre, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

Held under the theme ‘ARAB Media: From Now to the Future’, the two-day forum features over 3,000 leaders of ARAB and international media institutions, prominent writers, thinkers, intellectuals, academics, and those interested in the media industry within the largest annual gathering of its kind in the ARAB region.