Facebook to let users prioritise ‘trustworthy’ news based on surveys

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SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook will prioritise ‘trustworthy’ news in its feed of social media posts, using member surveys to identify high-quality outlets and fight sensationalism and misinformation, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

The change 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 presidential election.

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

“There is too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization 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 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.”

Friends get priority

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.

“For some time, we have argued that Facebook should give priority to news from trusted sources,” David Chavern, head of industry group News Media Alliance, said in a statement.

“This would be positive for consumers, as well as help to address the ‘fake news’ issues.”

The group will watch how the Facebook ranking changes are implemented and whether they deliver on the social network´s stated goals, according to Chavern.

“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,” Zuckerberg said.

Known for annual personal goals ranging from killing his own food to learning Chinese, Zuckerberg´s stated mission for this year is to “fix” the social network.

He plans to target abuse and hate, and interference by nation states.