Facebook is harnessing the power of its 2 billion users to prioritize high-quality news, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday.
The social platform, which recently rolled out plans to de-emphasize how many news stories people see, now wants to make sure the remaining stories are “trustworthy, informative and local,” according to Zuckerberg’s post.
“There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today. 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,” Zuckerberg said in the post. “That's why it's important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.”
In light of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and accusations that tech companies have not done enough to stop the spread of false or misleading information, trust in the news media is at an all-time low.
According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the media is now the least trusted institution globally for the first time ever.
“The demise of confidence in the Fourth Estate is driven primarily by a significant drop in trust in platforms, notably search engines and social media,” according to Edelman, a public relations firm, which found that 63 percent of respondents said they cannot distinguish good journalism from rumor or falsehoods or if a piece of media was produced by a reputable organization.
That’s significant in a world where Pew reports that two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media.
Additionally, a lack of faith in media led 56 percent of people to tell Edelman they cannot identify the truth and the same percentage to say they also don’t trust government leaders.
Facebook, perhaps hoping to avoid more accusations of anti-conservative bias, is empowering its users rather than bringing in outside experts to determine the quality and trustworthiness of news sources.
“We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective,” Zuckerberg said.
As part of Facebook’s quality surveys, the tech giant will now ask people if they are familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The gist of the effort is that while some news organizations are primarily trusted by core readers, others are “broadly trusted across society” even by people who don’t read them.
Facebook claims this latest change won’t impact how much news you see when you log in, but it will tilt the scales toward news sources that are trusted by the community.
The Edelman survey notes that trust can only be regained when the truth is valued and supported by a range of stakeholders.
“Institutions must answer the public’s call for providing factually accurate, timely information and joining the public debate. Media cannot do it alone because of political and financial constraints,” the Edelman study said. “Every institution must contribute to the education of the populace.”