Need to Know: October 25, 2021

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism 


You might have heard: Early this month, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that the company focused on growth over user safety, disregarding its impact on society (The Washington Post)

But did you know: New whistleblower claims Facebook allowed hate, misinformation to go unchecked (The Washington Post)

In allegations made to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a second whistleblower has alleged Facebook prioritized profits over efforts to fight hate speech, misinformation and illegal activity conducted in Facebook Groups. The whistleblower, a former member of Facebook’s Integrity team, said in an affidavit that after Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, a Facebook communications official dismissed the situation as “a flash in the pan.” The affidavit also alleges that Facebook’s top leaders are aware of problems within the company but haven’t reported them to investors through SEC filings.

+ Noted: Researchers say a New York Times reporter was hacked twice with spyware (The New York Times)


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Vox Media has built a visual way to experience podcasts (Nieman Lab)

“More Than This,” a new branded podcast produced by Vox Creative and sponsored by company Straight Talk Wireless, can be accessed by deaf audiences through an immersive transcript. Annu Subramanian said the goal was to “elevate” podcast transcripts by visually conveying an episode’s emotion and pacing. Created by a team of engineers, graphic artists and user experience designers, the transcripts use design elements, like illustrations and emphasized text, to engross the reader in the episode.


Facebook signs copyright agreements with some French publishers (Reuters)

The initial agreement, announced last week, lists the copyright fees that publishers will receive, with additional details to be hammered out in a separate agreement that will allow members of a French news publishers’ lobby group to sign their own licenses with Facebook. Publishers can sign licenses for their content to appear on Facebook’s main platform or its curated Facebook News service that will debut in France next year.


Twitter’s algorithm’s favors right-leaning political content, research finds (BBC)

Twitter released research last week that found the platform’s algorithm-driven feed is more likely to amplify right-leaning content than left-leaning, but the company didn’t offer an explanation for the bias, which it plans to explore in future research. Right-leaning users have previously accused Twitter of anti-conservative bias, while others have alleged the company pushes extreme ideologies over mainstream ones, an idea for which the company’s report didn’t find evidence.


Why newsrooms should cover systemic issues that can result in bias (Restructuring Journalism)

Reuters Executive Editor Gina Chua argues that journalists should avoid blaming complicated problems solely on bad actors and instead introduce readers to systemic issues that can lead to bias against women and other groups. Newsrooms should continue covering overt discrimination, Chua writes, and reporting narrative stories may come easier to journalists than “wonky analyses.” But it’s equally important, she says, to help readers understand complex systemic problems through interactive graphics and other reporting methods.

+ A reflection on The Believer, which Nicholas Russell writes was overshadowed by “callous mismanagement and a lack of care.” (Gawker)


How the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made sense of 11.9 million documents to publish the Pandora Papers (Poynter)

In October, the ICIJ released its Pandora Papers investigation, a multi-organization collaboration that examined the practice of “offshoring” money to other countries to preserve wealth. Since it was founded in 1997, ICIJ has developed an online newsroom that shares documents with reporters around the world using technology systems that were originally built for a dating site and librarians. In its collaborations with news organizations, ICIJ requires reporters to share their findings and to publish stories on the same day.