Facebook to prioritize news sources deemed to be more trustworthy

Facebook to prioritize news sources deemed to be more trustworthy
Facebook to prioritize news sources deemed to be more trustworthy

Facebook has announced it will prioritize news sources deemed to be more trustworthy in its News Feed, BBC reported.

The firm said the social network community would determine which outlets are reliable via the use of user surveys.

Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said news content would soon make up around 4% of what appeared in people's News Feeds - down from 5% before.

The move is the latest attempt by the company to quell the spread of so-called fake news and propaganda on the network.

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The change is an attempt to shift the key judgments over bias and accuracy away from Facebook's employees, and onto its user base.

"We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with," Zuckerberg said.

"We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you - the community - and have your feedback determine the ranking."

Users will be asked, as they sometimes are about advertising, whether they recognize a news brand and if they trust it.

Facebook's theory, yet to be tested on a large scale, is that while there are many partisan outlets that have readers that trust them, there is a smaller subset of media companies that a majority people find "broadly trustworthy", whatever their particular leanings.

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"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarisation in the world today," wrote Zuckerberg, who recently announced that his challenge this year was to essentially "fix" Facebook.

"Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them."

Winners and losers

News ranking system will first be tested on US-based users only, and the results of the survey will not be made public.

"This is one of many signals that go into News Feed ranking," a Facebook spokesman said.

"We do not plan to release individual publishers' trust scores because they represent an incomplete picture of how each story's position in each person's feed is determined."

As with any algorithm change, be it Facebook or any other major web service, there will be some that benefit and others that will struggle.

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Among the winners will likely be traditional media organizations with long histories or a strong broadcast presence.

However, emerging brands will suffer if recognition is not as strong, regardless of whether the content is trustworthy or not.

For instance, Buzzfeed's initial beginnings as a viral site would have almost certainly hindered its growth into a serious news organization had it been subject to the ideas about to be put in place by Zuckerberg's team.

Also, it is unclear how trustworthy, specialist news organizations with smaller readerships, such as scientific publications, will be treated under these rules, though Facebook's head of News Feed Adam Mosseri said local news would at least be protected.

"We're making it easier for people to see local news and information in a dedicated section.

"We'll continue to work on ways to show more local news that is relevant to where people live."

Last Modified: 01 21 2018 05:19 PM

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