Fake news has spread over social media like wildfire, that much is certain. The rate by which they are distributed plus the unapologetic luridness of their content makes it difficult for most users, especially those who, for some reason, treat social media as news sources, to separate fact from fiction.
That's why Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, and a smattering of news outlets are joining the Trust Project, a nonpartisan organization seeking to address the growing problem of online misinformation. By helping online users distinguish what's real from what might be fake, it hopes to reintroduce reliable journalism in a medium where it's becoming increasingly hard to detect.
A key part of that effort, called Trust Indicators, will be adapted by major social networks including Google, Facebook, Bing, and Twitter. Now live on Facebook, Trust Indicators offer easy-to-access information about a news organization's ethics and practices.
Here's how that's going to work, according to the Trust Project: On Facebook, news articles will have icons next to them. When clicked, a bunch of information about the publisher will pop up, including the backgrounds of the authors, ethics and other standards, and how they do their journalistic work.
"News consumers need a way to tell media companies what we expect from them, the types of news we can count on and will pay for," said craigslist founder Craig Newmark, an early supporter of the effort. "The Trust Indicators set standards for media outlets and allow newspeople to commit to good faith reporting that's worth buying."
Trust Project: Eight Core Trust Indicators
Trust Indicators were created by senior news editors, basing them on in-depth interviews and the highest values of journalism. They are:
• Best Practices: This refers to an outlet's ethics, mission, standards for accuracy, and companies that are funding it.
• Author Expertise: This looks into the background of the authors who wrote the story.
• Type of Work: Used to determine whether the article is straight news, an opinion piece, an analysis, or an advertisement.
• Citations and References: Used to provide additional resources behind facts and assertions, which are especially handy for more complicated investigative-type pieces.
• Methods: Tells why the authors chose to pursue a particular story and how they approached it.
• Locally Sourced?: Informs people if the story is of local origin or expertise.
• Diverse Voices: Ensures a newsroom represents diverse voices.
• Actionable Feedback: Informs users whether a certain news outlet engages with its audience in setting coverage priorities or asks them for help in contributing to the reporting process.
When Will Trust Indicators Be Implemented?
Again, Twitter, Facebook, Bing, and Google have all pledged to use these indicators in the future, but not all implementations are rolled out yet.
On Google, once live, they will appear within Google News, Search, and other services where news is displayed, the company explained in a blog post.
Among the news publications participating in the Trust Project are the Economist, The Globe and Mail, Independent Journal Review, Mic, and The Washington Post. They will, at some point in the future, begin showing Trust Indicators, and so will several more outlets over the next six months.