EBay founder pledges $100 million to fight ‘fake news’

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar speaks during the panel session Democracy and Voice: Technology For Citizen Empowerment and Human Rights
Brian Harkin | Getty Images

The billionaire founder of eBay is to donate $100 million to support investigative journalism and counter the rise of "fake news".

In his latest philanthropic venture, Pierre Omidyar has set his sights on fighting misinformation and hate speech which he says have led to a "global trust deficit" and increased division between governments and society.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the group behind the uncovering of the Panama Papers last year, will be among the independent and investigative media outlets to receive funding over the next three years.

The ICIJ will receive up to $4.5 million to expand its investigative reporting. Alianza Latinoamericana para la Tecnologia Civica (ALTEC), a project designed to promote civic engagement and transparency in Latin America, and The Anti-Defamation Legue (ADL), the world's leading anti-Semitism organization, are among others so far announced to receive funding.

Pierre Omidyar and Pamela Omidyar attend the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy 10th Anniversary Award ceremony at The New York Public Library
Steve Mack | WireImage

The funds will be provided through the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic investment firm founded by Omidyar and his wife in 2004. It has so far committed more than $1 billion to good causes, including $220 million towards a Government & Citizen Engagement initiative which aims to drive accountability and transparency within government.

"Across the world, we see a worrying resurgence of authoritarian politics that is undermining progress towards a more open and inclusive society," stated Omidyar Network Managing Partner Matt Bannick.

"A lack of government responsiveness and a growing distrust in institutions, especially the media, are eroding trust. Increasingly, facts are being devalued, misinformation spread, accountability ignored, and channels that give citizens a voice withdrawn.

"These trends cannot become the norm, and we must protect the principles of openness, participation, and accountability. These are the foundations of a healthy democratic society."

The recent emergence of corruption scandals within governments from Brazil to France and accusation and growing accusations against mainstream media outlets by governing bodies have led to growing mistrust within the public. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that citizens living within two thirds of the world's major economies have trust levels of less than 50 percent in their country's mainstream institutions.

"At a time when autocrats, demagogues, criminals, dodgy businessmen, and other shady characters are seeking to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of society, it is more important than ever that journalists can remain the world's independent eyes and ears, and root out corruption and wrongdoing," said Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ.

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