Trusted news to prevail; Facebook hands ranking powers to users

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 22 January 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is calling on its users to help rank news sources on the platform, based on the metric of trust.

In its quest to bring Facebook back to a place of meaningful social interactions, free from pointless trivial posts from questionable sources, the social media network is handing over the power of ranking news sources to its users.

“There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarisation in the world today,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook 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.”

As part of its ongoing quality surveys, from this week Facebook in the US will begin asking people whether they're familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source.

AdNews has been told that this latest move only impacts the US – for now.

The idea is that some news organisations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don't follow them directly.

“We eliminate from the sample those who aren't familiar with a source, so the output is a ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it,” Zuckerberg said.

“This update will not change the amount of news you see on Facebook. It will only shift the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.”

See: Facebook isn't the be all and end all

The move is in response to the platform becoming increasingly littered with inaccurate and outright fabricated stories and follows news last week that its News Feed algorithm will be prioritising posts from friends and family over content from publishers.

The initial change means that users will see less public content; dropping from making up 5% of News Feed posts, to 4%.

The recenet changes impact organic posts within News Feeds and do not impact paid for posts.

While admitting it's a “big change”, he says the even tighter measures are needed to ensure the 4% of news is as high quality as it can be.

Media agency execs welcomed the initial Facebook News Feed update, recognising it's the platform taking its first serious step in the fight against fake news. 

Give people the power

As of this week Facebook's product teams have been tasked to ensure news that is “trustworthy, informative, and local” is priortised.

Zuckerberg says it struggled with how to decide what news sources are “broadly trusted” in a world with so much division and rather than make that decision itself, which he admits he's not comfortable with, it has handed the decision to is users.

He said Facebook also considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of its hands, but would likely not solve the objectivity problem.

“We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective,” Zuckerberg explained.

“My hope is that this update about trusted news and last week's update about meaningful interactions will help make time on Facebook time well spent: where we're strengthening our relationships, engaging in active conversations rather than passive consumption, and, when we read news, making sure it's from high quality and trusted sources.”

Since the News Feed shake-up publishers have been urging users to revert to their apps and owned assets, with BuzzFeed even upping its ad spend to do so. The news came as a rude, but not unexpected, awakening - see reactions here.

See all our coverage of the News Feed updates here.

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