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Facebook vs. 'Fake News'

Users will now be able to rank news sources on the social media behemoth

Facebook office

Noah Berger/AP

Facebook was blamed by some for the proliferation of "fake news" around the 2016 election cycle.

In an effort to further combat so-called “fake news” from proliferating on social media, Facebook announced that it will begin ranking news sources by trustworthiness.

In a Facebook post explaining the move, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote:

Here's how this will work. As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they're familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The idea is that some news organizations 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.)

It’s the second major maneuver by Zuckerberg and Facebook execs in the past few weeks regarding how they plan to treat news on the site going forward. Recently, the social media giant announced that the placement of stories and posts in users’ news feeds would be increasingly affected by what’s being shared by their friends and family members, and that stories posted directly by news sources would be seen less frequently.

That change, according to the company, was designed to make visits to the site a more “positive” experience — the idea being that seeing a cute puppy picture that was liked by your Aunt Edna will do more to brighten your day than the latest breaking news. The shift to news rankings, however, is targeted more squarely at attempting to ensure that the news users see on the site can be trusted.

It’s not a trivial issue. Last year, Facebook, which passed the 2 billion active-users mark in 2017, acknowledged that the site had been inundated by Russian agents who posed as news sources and individuals to post and share polarizing, largely false content. One potential snag: The user base that was duped by those scams — many of which, knowingly or unknowingly, have exacerbated the spread of false information — will be the same one ranking the news sources. But Zuckerberg clearly hopes this is a step in the right direction toward making the site a more trusted source overall.

“There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” he wrote. “We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”