Future CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne writes exclusively for Press Gazette on why she is committed to creating a “better, safer internet” in 2022.
Over the past decade, the rise of disinformation and fake news has become a major, all-pervasive phenomenon, amplified by social media. And regrettably, all too often it has tragic, real-life consequences.
Susceptibility to fake news is understandable. Our lives are busier than ever before, and attention spans shorter. We don’t all have the time to assess the credibility of the sources of information we come across online.
However, as the tide of fake news sweeps across the internet, I do believe there is also a ‘search for trust’ happening at the same time. And this is something that needs to be harnessed.
The rise of fake news has created scepticism amongst many audiences who want to get their information from titles offering them impartial advice and trusted content.
Digital publishers across the media industry will know that this trust and goodwill takes many years to foster.
At Future, we reach one in three people online in the US and one in two in the UK each month through our 250 specialist brands. Our scale and global reach mean we have a responsibility to ensure we’re doing our bit to get the internet we all want, and to keep our audiences safe and well-informed.
Whether it’s TechRadar, Marie Claire, The Week or Live Science, our audiences come to our brands because they fundamentally trust us to provide them with high-quality content, advice and research.
I consider myself fortunate that at Future we have some of the best editorial teams in the business who are committed to upholding such high standards day-in, day-out.
Put simply, we will not tolerate misinformation or fake news. This is something we take very seriously and is a core component of our new responsibility strategy we have outlined today.
As part of that plan, we will continue to strengthen our responsible content framework for our brands. We are also committed to encouraging young, diverse talent to develop their confidence, passions and talents to work in the media sector as we develop the next generation of editorial talent through bespoke journalist training and our partnerships with Media Trust and A New Direction.
We will take an active role in the debate about the future of the internet and are committed to providing equal access, accuracy, independence and freedom of expression.
There is a moral imperative underpinning this matter, but there’s another driver, too.
Authentic brands can provide a platform and opportunity to influence and inspire people, and to encourage positive change through trusted information and advice.
And frankly, good content that drives eyeballs shouldn’t have to mean spurious ‘clickbait’. Positive news and helpful content can rank just as highly.
As we all look towards the Christmas period, I will continue to challenge myself and our teams at Future to ask ourselves ‘what can we do next year to promote a safer, better internet?’
We won’t have all the answers, but we are committed to doing our bit.
Alongside other responsible digital publishers, I am optimistic that collectively we can create an enlarged, growing ecosystem of trusted content on the internet which can harness the search for trust and weaken the web of fake news.