collaboration network
Credit: Image from Pixabay

The First Draft Partner Network, which will connect Facebook, Twitter and Google to twenty news organisations around the world, launches today to facilitate discussions around the challenges of finding and verifying information online with the aim of improving industry practices.

The First Draft Coalition was launched in 2015 by nine founding members including Bellingcat, Eyewitness Media Hub and Storyful, with support from Google News Lab to create resources and guidance on social media newsgathering and verification for journalists.

Through the Partner Network, First Draft is expanding to facilitate wider industry discussions and to bring the social networks into the mix.

"Particularly over the last year with the summer of news that we've had, we've all been involved in lots of conversations that use the phrase 'we need to find a solution' or 'we must try and do better as an industry,'" said Jenni Sargent, managing director, First Draft.

"We recognise that actually it's time to start doing instead of talking about it, and in order to achieve solutions in some of these areas we really needed to bring the social networks into the conversation."

Partners include The New York Times, The Washington Post, AJ+, BuzzFeed News, AFP, Channel 4, The Telegraph and more, and their goal is to share knowledge and develop training and policies on best practices for using the social web to find and share stories.

The network will meet regularly at summits to discuss individual topics in depth, such as the ethics of live video on social media for example, and First Draft hopes to facilitate a "feedback loop" between the publishers and technology companies.

"First Draft's role would be to pull all of that together and then have separate meetings with the social networks, who would be in attendance on that summit day as well, and to see which of these things are realistic to develop," Sargent explained.

"As they're being developed, if at all, we would then feed that back to the network participants. If there is a group of partners who are all really excited about working on one project, our role would be just to ensure that they're connected and they have space to talk to each other and meet up. Our job would be to almost champion the ideas and involve as many people as possible."

Sargent said the network is not just about creating a "wall of passive logos", and each partner has signed up with the express aim of sharing their workflows and challenges to improve the verification process and the experience of eyewitnesses.

Publishers can still sign up to be partners on the First Draft website.

"I don't think anyone thinks that the challenges they're experiencing are unique to them. We don't want people to go 'oh collaboration, we've heard that before'.

"It's really important to us that when people sign up to this partner network, we're going to be moving things forward based on their insights and experience that they can share, as opposed to First Draft just coming up with stuff and publishing it as recommendations. It's time now to bring as many new voices and ideas in as we can."

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