Billionaire eBay founder commits $100m to combat fake news

Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, is combatting fake news and hate speech by donating $100 million (80 million) to investigative journalism.

Omidyar's philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyar Network, announced the investment at the Skoll World Forum. The funds, which will be dispersed over the next three years, are intended to combat the current "global trust deficit."

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which notably published the Panama Papers in 2016, will receive $4.5 million as the first recipient of Omidyar's investment.

"[ICIJ's] plans to increase focus on global investigations and develop infrastructure such as data analysis tools for the investigative journalism space could not come at a better time," explained a blog post from the Omidyar Network. "We are excited to see even greater impacts for justice, accountability, and transparency as the ICIJ leads the change in a new era of investigative journalism."

The increasing prominence of fake news and misinformation makes independent media and investigative journalism more important than ever, according to Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ. He called for a change in both the technology and business models that support journalism, which he said have been failing over time.

"Better use of technology will likely result not just in better journalism, but perhaps, in time, it will also offer an alternative business model to sustain the work," Ryle said in a blog post.

Apart from ICIJ, the Anti-Defamation League and the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology will also receive funding.

The Omidyar Network hopes that through these donations, it will be able to help and inspire other organisations and journalists globally to combat the spread of fake news.

Facebook has also set out plans to tackle fake news, after critics said false stories that went viral on the social media network helped contribute to US president Donald Trump's election win.

The UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also looking into the issue, launching an inquiry in late January. Google Home, Google's AI hub, also told aBBCjournalist that former US president Barack Obama might be planning a Communist-style coup after drawing in data from questionable news sources to answer a question.

Picture: Bigstock