$140m boost for journalism and fight against fake news

WASHINGTON • The philanthropy established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar will contribute US$100 million (S$140 million) to support investigative journalism, fight misinformation and counteract hate speech around the world.

One of the first contributions, an amount of US$4.5 million, will go to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Washington-based group behind last year's Panama Papers investigation. The ICIJ probes uncovered offshore businesses and shell corporations, some of which were used for purposes such as tax evasion.

"We think it's really important to act now to keep dangerous trends from becoming the norm," Mr Stephen King, who heads the Omidyar Network's civic engagement initiative, told The Washington Post in the philanthropic group's first public comments on the three-year funding commitment.

The Silicon Valley-based philanthropy was to make the official announcement yesterday in Oxford, England.

In an interview, Mr King referred to "an urgent need" and said the US$100 million is "the largest-ever contribution" of its kind.

Other early recipients will include the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Washington organisation devoted to fighting anti-Semitism worldwide. ADL will use the money to build "a state-of-the-art command centre" in Silicon Valley to combat the growing threat posed by hateful content online.

Mr Omidyar, who was not available to comment for this article, "has been very involved" in the plans for the funding commitment, Mr King said, adding: "These are issues he cares deeply about."

The 49-year-old Iranian-American businessman, born in France, was the chairman of eBay from 1998 to 2015 and has funded media-related organisations and initiatives.

Mr Omidyar became a billionaire at 31 with eBay's initial public offering in 1998. He and his wife Pamela Kerr Omidyar established the Omidyar Network in 2004.

In 2013, he announced the creation of Intercept, a journalism site focused on transparency, civil liberties and national security.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline '$140m boost for journalism and fight against fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe