With two questions, Facebook is deciding the future of news

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Commentary: First it was the Disney Princess quizzes. Then it was Russian propaganda. Now Facebook is going to ask who you trust when it comes to news. That’s dangerous.

 

One day soon, Facebook may ask you two seemingly straightforward questions that could decide the future of news on your feed.

1. “Do you recognize the following websites?” (Yes/No)

2. “How much do you trust each of these domains?” (Entirely/A lot/Somewhat/Barely/Not at all).

These are, in fact, some of the actual questions, written by teams at Facebook.

The questions stem from a decision by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, who said last week that he’s going to seek the wisdom of the crowd — that is, the 2 billion monthly users of his service — to determine which media organizations are writing honest and trustworthy stories worthy of appearing in your feed.

 

The world’s largest social network, with a population greater than that of any country on Earth, by default won’t consider facts, honesty or professionalism when judging news organizations.

Instead, Zuckerberg and his team are going to survey random people, maybe some of your friends, maybe not, who’ll decide what publications are most trustworthy. Whatever Facebook learns from us — and a Facebook spokesman told me it won’t make any of those details public — will filter down into how often you see my stories in your feed.

 

Yes, your ranting Uncle Ed may help determine whether you see the next big scoop from The New York Times or Wall Street Journal or CNN or Fox News.

 

“People who use Facebook have made clear that they want to see accurate, informative and relevant news on Facebook, as well as news from sources they trust,” a Facebook spokesman told me. “The question was how to measure that. We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we were comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask the community, and have their feedback determine the ranking.”

 

So, he added, “We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”

Welcome to Facebook’s vision of journalism in the 21st century. No wonder many people are calling out Zuckerberg and saying, with a strong twang of irony, “what could go wrong?”

 

Photo: Archive / News Source: CNET