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Facebook to let users rank 'trust' in news sources

Friday, January 19, 2018

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SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — Facebook announced Friday it will ask its two billion users to rank their trust in news sources, in its latest attempt to combat the spread of misinformation on the social network.

The change to the Facebook news feed comes as the online giant seeks to address charges that it has failed – along with Google and Twitter – to prevent the spread of bogus news, most strikingly ahead of the 2016 US election.

In a Facebook post, co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the network would seek to "prioritise news that is trustworthy, informative, and local."

"There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarisation in the world today," Zuckerberg said. "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."

The new "trusted sources" ranking, which starts next week, would aim to "make sure the news you see, while less overall, is high quality" and "helps build a sense of common ground" rather than sow division, Zuckerberg said.

To do so, he said, Facebook decided to rely on member surveys as the most "objective" way to rank trust in news sources.

"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."

The new ranking system, he said, would hopefully separate news organisations that are only trusted by their readers or watchers, from ones that are broadly trusted across society.

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

The latest move comes a week after Facebook announced a major update to its user feed that highlights what friends and family share on the network, over advertisements, celebrity and media posts.

The company cast the change as part of a refocus on "community" – prioritising social interactions and relationships – while acknowledging it would likely result in people spending less time on the platform.

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