The Battle Over Fake News

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There has been a lot of talk these days about “fake news”. Honestly, it’s been around for a long time, but the internet and social media has made it way more of an issue. We have most recently seen Google showing results that named an innocent man as the Las Vegas shooter during the confusion surrounding the event. There have been many other false reports and hoaxes masquerading as reliable information rising to the top of search results and trending topics on social media.

This week, Facebook, Google, Twitter and several media outlets including The Washington Post announced plans to begin using “Trust Indicators” to help assure users of the reliability of their content and combat fabricated stories. The Trust Indicators were created by the Trust Project which is funded by the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Markkula Foundation, is led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

The Trust Project outlined some of its core Trust Indicators:

  • Best Practices: What Are Your Standards? Who funds the news outlet? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus, commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
  • Author Expertise: Who Reported This? Details about the journalist who wrote the story, including expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: What Is This? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: For investigative or in-depth stories, greater access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
  • Methods: Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced? Lets people know when the story has local origin or expertise.

Facebook will be rolling out an update that adds the Trust Indicators to various articles. The tiny “i” icon next to articles on News Feed will now include more information about the media outlet behind that story. Publishers can choose to share their ethics policy, corrections policy, fact-checking policy, ownership structure, and masthead, according to a Facebook spokesperson.

This seems to be a great start in the battle against fake news, but since most people only read the headline, and rarely click through to the actual article, it will be interesting to see if anyone will actually click the little “i”.