Facebook will rely on its users to decide publishers’ trustworthiness

Facebook has been heavily criticized in recent years over its inability to stop the spread of fake news on users’ feeds so it is now looking to engage users to help the company determine which publishers should be given preferential treatment in news feeds. 

The criticism leveled at Facebook and its owner and CEO, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, peaked following the US presidential elections in 2016 when it was alleged that fake news stories circulating on the social network might have affected the election’s outcome. 

Although the company was quick to deny that it had influenced the voters in any way, shape or form, Mr Zuckerberg’s recent announcement on his Facebook page suggests that he is well aware that his social media network is being used as a vehicle for spreading fake news and vicious propaganda – and that he is determined to do something about it.

Earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg announced a new initiative aimed at ridding the social media of publications that spread ‘sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization’, and its users are at the heart of it. 

Mr. Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook profile that the company is planning on launching quality surveys that will ask users whether they know a particular publication, and if so, whether they trust it.

The results of this survey, Mr. Zuckerberg said, will directly influence how frequently any given publication will be featured on users’ newsfeeds.

“I’ve asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local. And we’re starting next week with trusted sources,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in his post.

“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. That’s why it’s important that News Feed promotes high-quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.”

Facebook, which had previously announced that it would trim the number of posts from publishers to 4%, said the changes are already in effect for users in the US, with the international rollout to conclude in due course. 

Mr. Zuckerberg admitted that the company had struggled to decide how to gauge the trustworthiness of publishers in an objective and impartial way, saying that they didn’t feel ‘comfortable’ with making this distinction themselves.

He said that after putting a lot of consideration into this matter, the company decided to use its users’ feedback as the ultimate barometer for measuring the trustworthiness of any given news source.

“We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem,” reads Mr. Zuckerberg’s post.

“Having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be the most objective.”

Let us hope that these measures will generate positive results in halting the spread of fake news.

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