Microsoft takes new steps to protect journalism and local news

Kareem Anderson

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Despite what appears to be a targeted attack on its own journalistic platform with a push toward AI-powered editors over actual human curation, Microsoft is taking steps to help protect journalism as a whole and local reporting. The company’s new initiatives to help save local journalism includes “a new community-based pilot program that looks at ways to provide journalists and newsrooms new tools, technology and capacity, and expand reach for local news outlets.”

In addition, Microsoft will be pushing a new pro bono program in pilot form to give legal assistance to journalists and “smaller” newsrooms, as well as offering its newly promoted AccountGuard platform to defend against cyberattacks. Microsoft plans to expand AccountGuard specifically to address journalism concerns which differ slightly from the election initiatives it was designed to target.

Microsoft plans to begin rolling out pilot versions of its new protective initiatives in Fresno, California, El Paso Ciudad Juarez, Jackson Mississippi, and the Delta and Yakima in Washington under these five tenants:

  • Provide direct funding to the community foundations for operating costs, to bolster collaboration and attract matching funding and resources from foundations and other local or regional businesses
  • Up-level technology through donations, deeply discounted software products and services from Microsoft and others
  • Build capacity around technology transformation and technical support, business intelligence including customer-based analytics, and modern journalism skills such as data journalism, using AI and machine learning tools and technology built specifically for journalists, audio and video production, and modern storytelling.
  • Expand news distribution to increase their reach and recognition, as well as generate new sources of revenue. Participating newsrooms that aren’t already a Microsoft News partner will have the opportunity to become one. As a partner, they may reach more than 500 million people in 180 countries every month across MSN, Bing, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft News apps and many mobile manufacturers and third-party distribution partners. Over 25 years, we’ve built a worldwide community of 1,200 publishers and 4,500 media brands and are proud to have shared over $1 billion in revenue with them since 2014.
  • Convening experts on new sources of revenue and funding so pilot communities can learn and build on approaches that have worked elsewhere. For example, The Seattle Times will share with the pilot newsrooms its working model and experiences of community-funded journalism.

Some of the specifics of the program include using Microsoft Video Authenticator to address journalistic integrity and handle deepfakes, as well as promoting media literacy through Microsoft’s work with Sensity and USA Today. Lastly, in an attempt to democratize journalistic support, Microsoft is accepting requests or legal assistance through third-party referrals as it partners with three non-profit committees such as Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, First Amendment Coalition, and Washington Coalition for Open Government to field potential time-consuming litigation.

Microsoft plans to promote important public policy issues as well as “issues that matter to news and journalism,” as they commit to listening and learning so they can expand its pilot efforts to a more concrete and sustained platform.