Omidyar Network Dedicates $114 Million to Fighting Fake News

The plague of fake news over the last few years came to a head in 2016, between Brexit and the US Presidential Election. Since Trump’s victory in November, many Americans have been decrying fake news and looking for ways to improve the situation. And they’re not alone.

According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, “less than 50 percent of the populations in two-thirds of the 28 nations surveyed trust mainstream businesses, government, media, and organizations to do what is right. Media institutions, specifically, are distrusted in 82 percent of the countries.” That’s not a good sign for the state of journalism.

That’s why the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has dedicated $114 million over the next three years to “strengthening independent media and investigative journalism, combating misinformation and hate speech, and enabling citizens to better engage with government entities.” The money will support projects around the world, especially nonprofit news organizations and journalistic watchdogs.

Joined by a number of supporters and partners, the initiative has already awarded $4.5 million to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, as well as undisclosed sums to Alianza Latinoamaericana para la Technología Cívica and the Anti-Defamation League. The independent News Integrity Initiative, run by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism was recently awarded $14 million. That group is focused on “helping individuals make informed judgements about the news they read and share online.”

It appears that nonprofit news initiatives may be the solution to fake news, since the problem is often caused by advertisers. Even more traditional news organizations, strapped for cash, have seen eroding ethical standards as traditional print journalism struggles to remain relevant in the digital age and retain advertising revenue. By removing the need for advertisers, journalists could remain independent of the profit motive, allowing them to report the news, without having to report to shareholders.

Organizations Profiles

For Pierre and Pam Omidyar, the ‘Money Matters, But the Impact Matters More’

Pierre Omidyar, Forest Whitaker, Pam Omidyar, and Lawrence Bender.
Pierre Omidyar, Forest Whitaker, Pam Omidyar, and Lawrence Bender.
IMG: pmo via Flickr

Pierre and Pamela Omidyar have been making some serious philanthropic contributions for more than a decade now, with no signs of slowing down. A true philanthropic power couple, the Omidyars acquired their fortune from Pierre’s company, eBay, and have been as generous with their wealth as they are business-savvy. According to The Huffington Post, “After creating the world of eBay, a place where people could easily share passions and build businesses, Pierre Omidyar realized he had to take that platform out into the real world, to empower those in need,” of Pierre’s transition from successful entrepreneur to leading philanthropist.  

In 2004, the Omidyars created the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm that creates opportunities for people who wish to engage in philanthropy with a significant social impact. Since it’s founding ten years ago, the Omidyar Network has been a platform in which Pierre and Pamela could invest in innovative organizations that impact social, economic, and political change. “Everyone is born equally capable, but lacks equal opportunity,” explains Pierre, who was inspired to create the Omidyar Network as a way to help those who don’t have access to funds to fuel their vision for a better world.

“I created [eBay] with the belief that people are good. If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you’ll rarely be disappointed, says Pierre. “After eBay became so financially successful, I really felt a sense of responsibility to put that to good use,” which is exactly what he and Pamela have done, in utilizing the Omidyar Network. In addition to their philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyars have created additional nonprofit organizations that tackle social issues. In 2005, Pamela took the lead in establishing Humanity United, an organization that confronts human trafficking and other issues of conflict globally. The couple also established Hopelab, a nonprofit foundation that uses technology to improve children’s health.

Pierre Omidyar is one of those rare philanthropists who is truly more concerned with the process of creating social change, rather than the dollar signs that help make that change happen. He explains, “When you look at the this top line number, it’s very easy to focus on dollars, […] The money matters, but the impact matters more. We’re really committed to trying to find new tools to have impact. That has been the most rewarding part of this journey,” of the ways in which the impact of doing good is more important than the monetary factor. Still, this is coming from the man who has donated more than $1 billion dollars to charitable causes and initiatives, a hefty sum that few other philanthropists have come close to matching.

Both at only 46 years old, one could argue that the Omidyars have many years of innovating philanthropy and passionate humanitarianism ahead.


Prominent People in Philanthropy: Pierre and Pam Omidyar

As a young researcher at an immunology lab, Pam Omidyar spent hours examining cancer cells in her lab. In order to relax after work, she would play video games, and she began to wonder if video games could also act as therapy for children struggling with cancer. And thus began HopeLab, a nonprofit that conducts research on a range of chronic illnesses, and that produces solutions like Re-Mission, a video game that helps youth cope with their cancer.

Pam’s work is made possible by her philanthropic work with her husband, Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Together they founded the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, which empowers people to help their own communities. Read the rest of their profile here: Pierre and Pam Omidyar.